Severe weather threat great this time of the year

Published 6:40 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The changing of seasons in Mississippi and other areas of the south means more than flowers and green leaves on the trees.

It also means the potential for severe weather, and the need to prepare for the possibility that a storm may be severe enough to damage an area, putting people in a position where they may be required to survive for several days without electricity or water.

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It’s one reason Gov. Phil Bryant declared this week “Severe Weather Preparedness Week” in the state to remind people to get ready to deal with the possible emergencies severe weather can bring.

“This is a transitional period from winter into spring, and our biggest threat, the most dangerous threat, is probably tornadoes as far as weather goes,” said Warren County Emergency Management Agency director John Elfer.

“But we’ve also got the river issues we deal with; those are slow to get here, slower to leave. We’ve kind of got a little more time to react to them.”

The National Weather Service has already issued a flood warning for the Mississippi River, predicting it to reach 41 feet at Vicksburg — 2 feet below flood stage — by March 10 because of heavy rains in the upper Mississippi River Basin.

As for severe weather, Mississippi and its neighboring states are located in a six-state tornado alley called the “Dixie Alley” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to NOAA, Mississippi averages 43 tornadoes a year.

According to the website, the state averages five tornadoes in March, seven in April and five in May.

“People need to start preparations now and not wait until we get closer to March and April when we get those severe storms,” Elfer said.

He said people need to prepare a survival kit that can allow them to go up to 48 hours without outside assistance.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency’s website offers some suggestions for a survival kit:

• Flashlight(s) with extra batteries.

• A portable radio with extra batteries.

• A NOAA Weather Radio.

• Non-perishable food for at least three days.

• Bottled water (1 gallon per person per day).

• First Aid Kit with prescription medications.

• Bedding and clothing for each family member.

• Blankets and towels

• Plastic dishes and eating utensils.

• Rain jackets and pants.

• Sun screen, sunglasses and mosquito repellent.

• Baby supplies like food, diapers and medication.

• Pet supplies such as food, leash and carrier, and vaccination records).

• Sanitary supplies.

• Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, cleanser, bleach, sanitary wipes, toilet paper, trash bags, • Feminine hygiene products.

• Copies of important documents.

• Driver’s license, Social Security card, proof of residence, insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, tax records, medical records and family pictures.

• Enough cash to fill up a vehicle with gas, and travelers checks.

• An emergency generator.

• A bicycle helmet.

“One of the biggest things people need is a robust warning system, whether they get on Code Red, they get a NOAA weather radio, or they use another app on their cell phone,” Elfer said.

“Generally speaking, we know days in advance if we’re going to have some type of severe weather, so if people will pay attention and watch those local forecasts and start planning ahead a few days, then they’re less likely to be caught off guard, especially with these storms that pop up overnight.”

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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