Prepare, then pray it doesn’t happen

Published 9:26 am Friday, June 9, 2017

As of Thursday, we are one week into hurricane season, and the Weather Channel has done its annual storm special listing the nation’s top 10 storms.

I usually do an annual hurricane season column talking about my experiences with storms from Hurricane Audrey in 1957, the first storm I remember, through Katrina, the one I’ll never forget. And in between the two is Betsy, where my family discovered how sound a sleeper I am, because I slept through the storm’s assault on Baton Rouge, where it pounded the city with rain and 90 mph winds.

Katrina sticks out because I was in Pascagoula and watched her storm surge put the city’s streets, my truck and a number of other trucks underwater and put 41/2 feet of water in my house. After the storm, I bought an “I Survived Katrina” T-shirt that I wear every Aug. 29 as a reminder of what happened and what can happen when nature goes berserk. I will continue to wear it until it gets so threadbare it falls off my body in pieces.

My fascination with these powerful storms goes way back. I’ve always tracked them, first on paper maps and the online through various websites. I have the National Hurricane Center bookmarked on my computer and my phone. I have a hurricane tracking app on my phone, and several books on past storms and how hurricanes are created and how they grow and move.

When I wrote columns and stories on hurricane season in earlier years, I always discussed how people need to be prepared for the season and the eventual landfall of a storm in their area. Those stories came back the other day, when my wife began talking about getting more batteries for flashlights and radios and stocking up on nonperishable foods.

That may sound like strange activity in this part of the state, several hundred miles from the Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, but my wife has a point, and I agree with the planning. If you think we’re immune from the effects of a hurricane, guess again.

Here’s a few examples. In 2005 Katrina covered the states of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. Her 100 mph winds were felt as far as Meridian. In 2004, Ivan hit the Alabama Gulf Coast then turned west, missing the Mississippi Coast and going up the state line to hit east Mississippi north of the coast with high winds, rain and tornados.

In 1969, Camille hit Mississippi and turned east, dumping barrels of rain causing heavy flooding in Virginia and West Virginia.

When these storms move inland, they at some point become massive low pressure systems capable of producing rain and tornadoes as they go forward, and for us, that means flooding, power outages, mudslides and other related problems we’d rather not deal with.

So make sure you’re ready. Get extra batteries, bottled water, nonperishable foods, make sure the propane tank for the grill is filled, then pray it doesn’t happen.
John Surratt is a staff writer for 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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