Our hearts go out to those whose lives have been upended by Saturday storm

Published 7:52 pm Saturday, January 21, 2017

The images are terrifying. The stories are even more so.
Severe weather rolled through Mississippi early Saturday, and in the process, ripped apart a college campus, a city and the lives of those who were killed, those who were injured and their friends and their family.
A tornado that was spun inside those overnight storms killed four people in Hattiesburg, caused havoc in Petal and on the campus of the William Carey University. Today, as we head to our houses of worship — our churches — we take time to pray for those killed, those injured and those tasked with rebuilding their homes, their colleges and their lives.
The severe weather that caused the damage, and then later caused damage in other parts of Mississippi and in Alabama, was predicted. Forecasters warned us of the potential for damaging weather and while there were lives lost and people injured, there is no telling how many lives were saved because of those forecasts.
This severe weather is something that has become all too familiar. This time of year is a time when severe weather can occur and it is important we remain prepared.
The National Weather Service, has offered the following tips for staying prepared and responding to the threat of a tornado:
• Seek shelter in a sturdy building, or a pre-designated shelter. Go to the lowest level of the building, preferably in a basement, and get under a heavy desk or workbench or sit next to the wall and cover your head with your arms and hands. Best bet – have a safe room in the basement.
• If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room or hallway – put as many walls between you and the outside of the building, and stay away from windows. Other possibilities: get into a bathtub or under a bed or sofa.
• Get out of vehicles – they can easily be tossed around – do not try to outrun a tornado.
• If caught outside – lie flat on the ground and cover your head with your hands. Remember, in tornado situations debris likes to settle in roadside ditches or other low spots. If heavy rains are falling in the area, ditches and low spots may quickly flood. Therefore, laying down in a ditch may not be your best choice.
• Be aware of flying debris – most deaths and injuries are caused by flying debris.
• Manufactured homes offer little protection, even if tied down. Leave these for a sturdy shelter before the storm approaches.
• Do not seek shelter under a highway overpass. Wind blows stronger under the overpass due to the wind-tunnel effect.
• Remember, the tornado can occur before there is a visible funnel cloud. A tornado is nothing more than a violently rotating column of air extending from the ground to the cloud base.

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