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Severe weather will always be a curiosity

In all the years I’ve been recording the events that affect communities, one thing has always intrigued me — the weather.

When it comes to living in the south, the old saying about the weather, “If you don’t like it, wait a minute and it will change,” is quite true. Over the years I can recall going to work in 20-degree weather looking like an Eskimo and later in the day walking outside with my sleeves rolled up because the temperature rose to 80 degrees at 3 in the afternoon. There’s preparation for rain that never came, the overnight snowfall that came after a day of sunny, 80-degree weather, the tornado that damaged a whole neighborhood or destroyed one house and left the one next door untouched.

I guess that’s why I get a little excited when severe weather comes around. I find weather interesting, especially hurricanes, which I believe are one of nature’s true wonders: a low pressure system that is more of an engine moving across the oceans fed by warm water and steered by the wind. I find it amazing how these storms can get so powerful and then run into a gust of wind that can sheer it away to nothing. But more about my experience with hurricanes at a later date.

In my work, my family and I have traveled to many areas, and along the way have learned the weather culture of each area. We lived in Cullman, Ala., in north Alabama, where my first winter there saw temperatures fall to six below zero, and where we learned how to react to tornado sirens. My daughter attended elementary school in Cullman, where they had periodic tornado drills, and children were ushered into the halls and taught to sit with their knees up and their heads between their knees. As a family, we learned how to get the half-bath of our home ready as a shelter when the sirens sounded the warning to take cover.

When we moved to Pascagoula, we put our lesson into practice  — at the wrong time. Ingalls Shipyard, the area’s largest private employer, used tall cranes to build the warships they sold to the U.S. Navy, and when winds approached 35 miles per hour, the yard would sound a siren to get the crane operators to abandon their rigs and get to safety.

Several weeks after we moved to Pascagoula, the sirens went off, and having learned our tornado lessons well, we took cover, not realizing what was going on. After we learned, we took the warnings like everyone else and went about our normal lives.

The past few weeks here, with the drenching rains and tornado warnings, have been a reminder of our days in North Alabama and on the Coast, and reminded me just how fickle nature and dangerous weather can be. Still, I’m fascinated when I watch the weather radar and see storms moving about.

Weather will never satisfy my curiosity about it.

John Surratt is a staff writer at The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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