The massive wind storm that struck Pittsburg and southern Crawford County came down to two things, according to a review by Pittsburg Fire Chief Scott Crain: timing and power.

The massive wind storm that struck Pittsburg and southern Crawford County came down to two things, according to a review by Pittsburg Fire Chief Scott Crain: timing and power.

The storm had plenty of power, packing 110-mph winds that damaged a number of buildings. But it was the timing of that power, along with the timing from the National Weather Service, that may have caused some to wonder about the tornado sirens.

Crain told the commissioners that at 10:21 p.m., a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for the county, and that at 10:48 p.m. a tornado warning was issued. However, he said that the storm had already hit the area between 10:40 and 10:45 p.m. on Feb. 28. City policy does not sound sirens until a tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service.

Not only were the sirens late, but because the storm had already hit, some of the sirens did not sound.

“The storm hit, and the electricity was already blocked off at some of those sirens,” Crain said. “We need to look at battery power and generators at some of those siren locations.”

Pittsburg Public Works Director Bill Beasley said that some of the city’s storm sirens have battery backups, but they are mainly the newer sirens.

“The ones that were going off were the ones on the south side of town,” Beasley said. “All of the old ones, it would be better just to get rid of them and replace with a new siren, because you can’t just put a battery pack on them. That’s in next year’s budget, some money to replace them.”

There are 13 sirens in the city, and “two of them are very old,” Beasley said. Six are fairly new, bought in the last few years. And the remaining five do not have battery backups at this time.

At its worst, the storm knocked 9,929 people out of power throughout the county, according to Westar. Crain noted that no injuries were caused by the storm. The storm also damaged several Pittsburg State buildings, Fire Station No. 3, George Nettels Elementary, the EconoLodge and several other buildings.

City commissioners indicated that they would like to see the replacement of storm sirens move up on the city’s schedule.

“I’d like to make sure they are some sort of priority. I don’t know how to do that right now,” said Mayor Marty Beezley. “We need to be up to date and have the best equipment possible.”

During the regular meeting on Tuesday, the city also made a move to create a monthly bulk drop-off at SEK Recycling for large items. This would include furniture, box springs, mattresses and appliances. The drop-offs would include a check to ensure that those dropping off items are Pittsburg residents.

The city’s cost would be between $5,000 and $7,500 for a year. Those costs include paying for SEK Recycling’s labor, as well as dumpster hauling costs and landfill costs. Oak Grove Landfill has offered to take the debris free for the first three months, and city officials indicated that County Commissioner Carl Wood was interested in joining up with the program for similar county issues.

Pittsburg Public Works Director Bill Beasley said that the city or the county could consider sending a loader to help smash the items in the dumpster to make more room if need be. Beasley described the plan as an attempt to find some “low-hanging fruit” as described by the Imagine Pittsburg 2030 campaign to start showing some progress in the city.

Commissioner Michael Gray warned that the dumpster could become full quickly, and that more than one may need to be on site. He supported the idea, but cautioned about the volume of the bulk items.

“I think this is a short-term solution. It doesn’t solve the problem in the long-term setting,” Gray said. “I think the dumpsters will fill up quick if we even get a halfway decent response from the city. I hope the center can handle that, and are ready for the volume of people if the dumpster is full.”

In other action Tuesday, the Pittsburg City Commission:

• approved a third year of membership in the Joplin Regional Prosperity Initiative at a cost of $20,000 to come out of the city’s economic development funds.

• approved a $750,000 forgivable loan to Masonite to expand their building at 605 E. Jefferson. The loan will be forgiven provided Masonite keeps its promise to expand by 65 jobs and purchases a certain amount of equipment.

Andrew Nash can be reached at andrew.nash@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 ext. 140.