Severe Weather Awareness Week

STORMY WEATHER – Copiah County has endured its share of stormy weather during the past couple of weeks. The storm that passed through Hazlehurst last Tuesday left a tree blocking this driveway on Lake Street. Citizens are urged to take precautions against future storms during Severe Weather Awareness Week.

Governor Haley Barbour declared Feb. 25-29 Severe Weather Awareness Week in Mississippi.

The National Weather Service will issue a statewide test tornado warning on NOAA weather radios only the morning of Feb. 27.  Schools, government agencies and businesses throughout the state are encouraged to participate in the annual tornado drill.

“Already this year one school in Mississippi has been hit by a powerful tornado,” said MEMA Director Mike Womack.  “When the warning was issued the school enacted its severe weather plan and got students to a safe area, and nobody was seriously hurt.  This emphasizes the importance of having a reliable way of receiving severe weather information along with having a severe weather plan.”

Copiah County Emergency Management Director Randle Drane advised that severe weather may be more prominent in the early spring and fall, but it can happen at any time. “Always keep an out on the weather and take precautions, such as keeping flashlights and plenty of batteries on hand,” Drane advised.  He encourages local residents to buy a NOAA weather radio with alert that can be found at local stores.

And don’t rely solely on weather forecasters who make their living outside of Copiah County and rely on weather radar to accurately asses the weather situation here.  “The storm that came through last Thursday was ruled as ‘unfavorable for tornado development’ by the weather forecasters on TV, but our office still responded to eye-witness reports of funnel clouds in the county that evening,” said Drane.

Weather sirens throughout the county are other tools that, when functioning property, can help aid in resident’s awareness of sever weather.  Drane encourages all municipalities to have their sirens tested regularly and repaired or replaced when needed.  He and his office are also working on placing such sirens at all schools in the county.  Residents can also receive email weather alerts by contacting his office and asking to be placed on the agency’s email alert list.

Residents can also take other precautions to lessen the effects of high winds.  Removing dead trees and fallen limbs from around homes and other structures reduces the risk of such damage occurring.  Securing portable items, such as power tools, lawn mowers and gardening items and removing loose debri containing bricks, pieces of concrete blocks or loose lumber can help, too.  “Take a look around your property and figure out what you can do–every little bit may help if or when a strong storm blows through and threatens lives and property,” Drane advised.

Drane advised that if a storm results in damage to your property to contact his office so they can help facilitate assessment teams and state and/or federal aid to be  provided to you as soon as possible.  “We need to know what happened so we can help you,” Drane said. The Copiah County Emergency Management Agency can be reached at 601-894-1658.

The first step in being prepared for severe weather is to listen to your local radio and television stations for severe weather watches and warnings.  A WATCH means weather conditions are favorable for the development of a particular event. A WARNING means the weather event is occurring and you should take immediate protective action.

For more information on preparing for severe weather, visit www.msema.org.

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