Community Visited: 8/6/04
Community Recognized: 9/28/04
Community Ceremony: 10/12/04
Verification team members included:
Viroqua, WI is in central Vernon County in southwest Wisconsin. It is the county seat, located along U.S. Highway 14 and geographically located on a ridge that runs through the central part of the county. Population is 4,400.
Main contact is Cindy Ackerman, Vernon County Emergency Management. Secondary contact is Mark Rahr, Viroqua Police Chief. We met both of them while conducting the site verification visit.
Viroqua (and Vernon County) has multiple contact points, which is a benefit in case of failure. The main warning point is the Vernon County Sheriff Department, but there is also the Viroqua Police Department, Emergency Management office, and Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Each facility is in a different part of town.
At the Sheriff Department, here are the methods NWS information is monitored:
With the premium software and radar display through Meteorologix located at the Sheriff Department, they serve as a natural hub for coordinating weather/spotter efforts. Radar information is downloaded via satellite and is verbally shared with Emergency Management and police officials. Vernon County has a NAWAS drop and can talk directly with the NWS, in addition to receiving watch and warning information via the state TIME system. The department will be moved to a brand new building and jail in 2005. Current county dispatch is quite small.
Viroqua Police Department dispatch is staffed Monday through Friday during the daytime hours only. A NOAA Weather Radio and TIME system are located there. The police dept. is also alerted of warnings via the Sheriff Dept. Both the Sheriff and police dispatch centers are located at ground level.
The Emergency Management office and EOC is staffed with numerous radios, including HAM Radio/APRS, NOAA Weather Radio, and VHF radio links with county and other local officials. Internet, television, and radio are also available.
Weather monitoring can be done via Internet, television, and Meteorologix - Weather Sentry Premium. Considering Viroqua is on a ridge, there is no need for river monitoring equipment, but Vernon County has been pro-active in assisting with a new, proposed river gauge near Readstown, WI (Vernon County).
For a community this size, only two (2) are required.
Viroqua also uses the Vernon Emergency Radio Alert System (V.E.R.A.S.) to alert local officials of warnings or local emergencies. Radios are located in numerous public buildings. While visiting the hospital, we verified a V.E.R.A.S. radio. Alerts can be sent to the radios from the Sheriff Dept., Police Dept., and Emergency Management Office. The radios are also tested routinely.
For a community this size, only one (1) method is required.
UPDATE (9/22/04) - NWRs have been placed at City Hall, the schools, and other public facilities.
Signal was relatively good from WXJ86 La Crosse (162.550 MHz).
SKYWARN weather spotter training was held in Viroqua on March 23, 2004. Twenty five people attended. Spotter attendance has been dropping slowly over the last several years. Amateur radio interest is sharply rising in the Viroqua area though.
Vernon County Emergency Management has been very pro-active with regards to communication to the La Crosse NWS this year. During the flooding of May 2004, contact was made at least daily with updates on flooding and search/rescue efforts. There has been a dramatic increase in amateur radio efforts and tests of the radio equipment showed they can reach numerous area repeaters with a clear signal. A new HAM radio repeater is also planned in Viroqua.
The NWS visited Viroqua on 8/6/04 and Emergency Management officials visited the NWS on Sept.21, 2004.
|Radio equipment in the Emergency Management Office.||The Meteorologix display unit at the dispatch center.||The downtown outdoor siren, one of three.|
|V.E.R.A.S. Radio located in Emergency Room of hospital.||Police Dept. dispatch center.||Mayor Fanta, EM Cindy Ackerman, and Police Chief Rahr accept their signs.|