By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – With Mississippi communities occupying five slots among the 25 deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history, emergency management and weather experts warn residents to prepare for severe weather as tornado season picks up speed.
March and April have notorious distinctions as prolific months for producing tornadoes in the state, National Weather Service in Jackson data shows. From 1950 to 2012, records show March having 232 twisters, April with 335 and May with 204. The only other comparable month is November, which has 229 tornadoes.
Tupelo’s 1936 tornado, which caused at least 216 deaths, occurred on April 6. Mother Nature’s strength can be as destructive as it is unpredictable.
On April 27, 2011, more than 50 tornadoes wreaked havoc in Mississippi and other Southern states and in other parts of the country. Since that destructive day, federal records show no more than 11 tornadoes – all of which have been relatively weak – have been reported in Mississippi north of Highway 82.
However, Grady Dixon, an associate professor of geosciences at Mississippi State University, warns that the period of fewer tornadoes shouldn’t give a false sense of security.
“Of course, we can make up that difference in a single day,” he said. “All it takes is one tornado to show how destructive they can be.”
From 2001 to 2012, Mississippi has had an average of eight tornado-related deaths each year.
Lee Bowdry, emergency management director for Lee County, said people should take precautions ahead of severe weather.
“The more you prepare, the higher chance you have of surviving any kind of severe weather,” Bowdry said.
He suggested having a weather radio or other means of monitoring weather conditions and access to a safe place to seek shelter if necessary.
Recently, Lee County added a weather siren in Mooreville and another in Saltillo for a combined 28 scattered throughout the county. A federal grant covered most of the costs of the new sirens, requiring the county to pay 5 percent of the costs.
If needed, the county also has plans to open up shelters in Baldwyn, Guntown, Nettleton, Plantersville, Saltillo, Shannon, Tupelo, Richmond and Verona.
To give quick notification of dangerous weather conditions, the Lee County Board of Supervisors and the Three Rivers Planning and Development District now provide phone, text message and email updates based on National Weather Service warnings.
The messages alert people moments after the NWS issues warnings of approaching severe weather.
People interested in the service can sign up at www.co.lee.ms.us or by calling Lee County Emergency Management at 841-9020.