Elfer: Prepare for storm season

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 5, 2015

The first spring thunderstorm moved through Vicksburg and Warren County Friday bringing with it Mississippi’s most dangerous season.

Spring with all its beauty also marks the beginning of tornado season, and it’s better to be prepared beforehand than to be struggling after a storm, Warren County Emergency Management Agency Director John Elfer said.

“The most dangerous things we face are tornadoes. Mississippi is the most active tornado state in the world,” Elfer said.

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Elfer recommended gathering a disaster kit, making a storm response plan and having multiple ways to get weather information.

“You need to have a kit that can sustain you and your family for a minimum of 72 hours,” he said.

Kits should include flashlights, batteries, nonperishable food, water and a variety of other items. A complete list of suggested items is available from Elfer’s office.

In event of a storm, residents should take cover away from windows on the lowest level of their home. Putting a plan in place to get there can save lives in times of emergency, he said.

“It’s just like a fire drill. If you practice, everybody knows where to go. That’s important, especially with children and during nighttime hours,” Elfer said. “Every family member needs to know where to go and how to communicate with each other,” he said.

If a storm is coming, it is best to bring patio furniture or potted plants inside as part of the emergency plan, he said.

“All that becomes missiles, and it damages property,” Elfer said.

Drivers caught in a strong storm are advised not to stop under an overpass because the structure can increase wind speed underneath.

“Pull off to the side of the road if you can, take an exit. Find some shelter and get out of the vehicle if you can.

Being alerted that a storm is coming is key to being prepared, he said. On the city or county web sites, residents may register a cell or land-line phone number to receive free calls or text messages about tornado warnings, evacuation orders and other emergencies through the CodeRed alert system. Elfer also recommended using a NOAA Weather Radio and monitoring local media as weather conditions approach.

“You’re alert system needs to be able to wake you up in the middle of the night,” he said.

Along with the threat of tornadoes comes flash flooding. Many area of the county can flood during a strong spring rain.

“Know your area. Know the areas that are flood prone, and do not attempt to drive through floodwater,” he said.