By Errol Castens
This is Mississippi’s Tornado Preparedness Week, so proclaimed by Gov. Phil Bryant.
Despite a perception that tornadoes are only a springtime phenomenon, November constitutes Mississippi’s second peak season for tornadoes. The state has recorded 229 tornadoes in November from 1950 to 2012, a scant 1 percent behind March as the second most twister-prone month behind April.
Moreover, the timing of the late-autumn twisters can be particularly dangerous.
“Over the past 20 years, about 80 percent of tornadoes during the month of November have occurred at night,” said NWS Jackson Meteorologist in Charge Alan Gerard. “This presents a challenge to our residents to remain weather aware during the overnight hours.”
Gerard added that December and January tornadoes, though less numerous, are also likely to be at night.
“A NOAA Weather Radio is the best way to make sure that you receive a warning when asleep,” he said.
The timing of this year’s Tornado Preparedness Week may prove more than usually coincidental.
Jimmy Allgood, emergency management coordinator for the City of Oxford, said he and other emergency officials are keeping their eyes on a cold front that the National Weather Service in Memphis says could spawn “strong to perhaps severe” thunderstorms across the Mid-South on Thursday.
“We’re watching this front that’s going to push through on Halloween,” Allgood said. He added that the weather gets the attention of emergency officials and weather junkies when the first cold fronts of autumn collide with remaining warm air that’s already here, often loaded with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Weather Service will conduct a statewide tornado drill at 9:15 a.m. today, using the Routine Weekly Test on NOAA weather radios to simulate an actual tornado warning. Emergency managers, schools, businesses and residents statewide are encouraged to participate.
“We saw how effective preparedness can be during the Pine Belt tornadoes back in February as hundreds of homes were destroyed, but there was not one death,” said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Director Robert Latham. “When our citizens know what to do, lives are saved and all we have to do is go in and help with rebuilding.”
For more information, visit www.msema.org/be-prepared/ or call your city or county emergency management coordinator.