• 72°

Hurricanes are not just a coastal concern

I’m sounding my annual warning about three weeks late this year.

June 1, as anyone who watches the Weather Channel knows, marked the beginning of hurricane season; a time for people like us living in the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast to begin preparations to be ready in the event a storm threatens our area.

Since 2005, the Gulf States have had their share of major storms, with Katrina, which hit Mississippi and Louisiana, and later Rita, which hit Louisiana in 2005, and Ike in 2008 and Harvey in 2017 which both hit Texas. Harvey also caused damage in western Louisiana.

As a witness to, and survivor of, Katrina, I am fully aware what a major storm can do to an area, which is why when the season begins my wife and I start discussing preparations and putting aside things like batteries and non-perishable foods to have on hand in case of an emergency.

That comment might bring criticism from some that we are taking needless precautions. After all, Vicksburg is more than 100 miles from the Coast and the odds of a hurricane hitting this area are very minimal.

That’s wishful thinking.

Just because Warren County is several hours from the Coast, doesn’t mean we’re immune from the ravages of a major, or minor, storm. As they move inland and diminish, hurricanes have been known to dump torrential rains on areas and spawn tornadoes long after making landfall.

All one has to do it look at history.

In 1965, Hurricane Betsy hit the New Orleans area, causing flooding and widespread destruction. But Betsy’s path of destruction didn’t end at New Orleans or Jefferson Parish. It moved north and then east, affecting states in the Midwest and along the East Coast.

Four years later, Hurricane Camille hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast and extreme South Louisiana, leveling a number of buildings. After hitting the Coast, Camille headed east, causing massive flooding in West Virginia as it made its way to the Atlantic Ocean, where it died.

Katrina was such a large storm its outer bands and clouds covered the Gulf of Mexico from the Louisiana-Texas state line to the western Florida Coast, and reached north into Tennessee.

As it came ashore, Katrina’s 100 mph winds were felt in Meridian, Hattiesburg and, if I remember the stories, Warren County. It also dumped rain and spawned tornadoes as it moved north through Mississippi and into Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio.

Hurricanes, like any storm, are nothing to play around with or dismiss as “it can’t hurt us here.” We need to remember that although we won’t catch the full brunt of the storm if one came ashore at Biloxi, or Gulfport, or Waveland or Pascagoula, the odds are pretty good we’ll be affected in some way after it makes landfall.

It would be a good idea to take precautions now. A storm in the Gulf of Mexico can hurt us here.

John Surratt is a staff writer with The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached 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.

email author More by John