Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced the award of more than $415,000 in grants for Weather Radio Transmitters to extend the coverage of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) early warning system to seven rural communities.

"With the tragedy of the tornadoes hitting towns in Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama and Georgia recently, we have heard national broadcasters saying everyone should have a NOAA Weather Radio," Johanns said. "These seven grants to rural communities who do not have coverage from NOAA Weather Radio Transmitters will help save lives."

The NWR is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting 24 hours a day from National Weather Service offices to alert people of approaching dangerous weather and other emergencies, including natural, environmental and public safety alerts. Thousands of people die or lose property annually because they did not know soon enough about hazards, disasters or emergencies.

The NWR covers all major metropolitan areas and many smaller cities and towns. The Weather Radio Transmitter grant program helps provide coverage to those rural areas that do not have NWR coverage or are poorly covered.

The grants awarded are funded using residual money from grant projects that were completed under budget. The award brings to 91 the total number of grants awarded to electric and telecommunications cooperatives, non-profit groups and state and local governments covering 100 sites in 26 states and Puerto Rico. The recipients of the seven Weather Radio Transmitter grants are:

Virginia, Department of Emergency Management, Halifax County $69,600.

Virginia, Department. of Emergency Management, Wythe County $48,800.

Tennessee Valley Electric Cooperative, Wayne County, Tenn., $72,000.

City of Nenana, Alaska, $39,438.

Consolidated Telcom, N.D., $54,767.

Custer Public Power District, Nebraska $59,600

Gogebic County Office of Emergency Services, Michigan $71,642.

Details of the grant recipients and projects and further information on rural development programs is available on USDA's web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov or at local USDA Rural Development offices.