Noise or Opportunity, Part 1


Lauderdale County, Miss. For many of us the planes that fly out of Meridian Naval Air Station are a beautiful sight. They fly thousands of feet above the ground and the relatively minimal noise they make is the sound of freedom.

But for a small group of people in Lauderdale and Kemper counties, who live in AICUZ, or air installation compatible use zones, the noise can be almost unbearable. And the danger of a crash is much more real.

Mamie Walker has lived in southern Kemper County, not far from NAS Meridian, for practically all of her life. Her home is actually just a few hundred feet from the runway at the base.

Newscenter 11 tried to talk to her about what it was like living so close, but it wasn't easy.

The noise around her home is a near daily occurrence for Walker and a few hundred other people in northern Lauderdale County and southern Kemper County. They live in what are called air installation compatible use zones, or AICUZ.

These are zones where noises regularly get above 65 decibels because of the T-45 aircraft flying over very low. In Walker's case, it can get even louder than 65 decibels.

"You can be talking to somebody outside, and you can't hear," said Walker. "You're on the phone, and you can't hear."

NAS Meridian just completed a study of the zones, the first it has done since the base got the T-45 in 1997. And they found there have been some changes in who and how people are affected by the trainer jets.

"In some respects, it has shrunk the 65 decibel levels," said NAS commanding officer, Capt. Charles Moore. "But there are areas where it extends a little further in the pattern than other aircraft did. So folks that in the past might not have been as affected are now affected."

Of course, noise isn't the only problem. People who live in these zones are at a greater risk of being affected by an aircraft crash. The dangers are real enough that the AICUZ report is making some recommendations about changes in ordinances and building codes for people who live in those two counties.

For Walker, and others like her in the areas around the base, the concerns are real and daily.

In part 2, we'll take a closer look at the recommendations the Navy study made including talking to local officials about how or if those recommendations could be implemented.


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