WOODWARD — Woodward will soon have a new tornado warning system.
Apache Corp, an oil and gas exploration and production company, and the City of Woodward announced Monday a $350,000 donation from the company to replace the city's current tornado warning system with new equipment that will include battery backup and redundant controls.
Just a little over a week ago, a tornado ripped through Woodward leaving 6 dead, around 30 injured and some 224 homes and businesses destroyed or damaged.
Officials believe lightning strikes led to power problems that affected the storm sirens as the tornado hit in the early morning hours of April 15. The tornado struck Woodward a little before 12:30 a.m.
The Apache donation will allow the city's emergency acquisition of a new "state of the art tornado warning system that will continue to operate in the case of an interruption of power," the company said in its news release.
Woodward Mayor Roscoe Hill said, "Apache is a long-term corporate citizen of Woodward. This very generous contribution demonstrates their profound commitment to our community. By dedicating funds to upgrade our early warning systems, Apache is saving lives and we are extremely grateful."
"The City of Woodward is an important hub for Apache's operations in western Oklahoma and home for some of our employees," said Rob Johnson, the company's Central Region vice president. "Our hearts go out to the families who were impacted by this devastating event. This donation is one way for Apache to help the community rebuild, rebound and be prepared for future tornadoes."
"This is a tremendous deal," said Woodward City Manager Alan Riffel. "Apache contacted us and said 'we want to help in a way that will be long-lasting and meaningful for the community' and this will certainly do that. Like the mayor said, they're saving lives by doing this."
Woodward's City Commissioners held an emergency meeting on Monday morning to move ahead quickly on purchasing and installing part of the system.
The commission voted to declare an emergency due to storm damage in the current system - 6 of the units are down and 2 of them can't even be found said Emergency Management Director Matt Lehenbauer - and to take action to waive the competitive bidding act in order to quickly purchase the system.
"The emergency (declaration) speeds up the purchase and allows us to go with what we know works and with a reliable system," Riffel said.