By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – New Year’s Eve is a time for celebrating, but the Red Cross and weather experts are advising caution tonight because of threatening weather.
The National Weather Service predicts an 80 percent chance of thunderstorms throughout north Mississippi tonight, some possibly severe. That’s cause for concern, especially on the night notorious for drinking, milling around and general revelry.
Cheryl Kocurek has kept her eye on the developing weather since Tuesday, and the emergency services director for the Red Cross of Northeast Mississippi isn’t taking any chances.
After conferring with Red Cross colleagues around the state, as well as with the Department of Human Services and other emergency management agencies, Kocurek decided to the put Red Cross’ 125 trained volunteers on standby and to stock the district’s four emergency response vehicles, or ERVs, with relief supplies.
Kocurek said she hopes folks will still be able to enjoy themselves, but added that for the Red Cross, “safety and readiness are always our first priorities.”
The Northeast Mississippi chapter of the American Red Cross covers 16 counties, and Kocurek has been most concerned about the southern portion of the district, including Webster, Oktibbeha, Clay, Monroe and Lowndes counties.
It’s impossible to tell with certainty, Kocurek said, but she expects the worst weather to develop along the district’s southern line.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Association also issued a release warning of the possibility of severe weather, but couldn’t specify which regions might be affected.
Conditions seem to be right for nasty weather. A warm front has been lingering in the area for days, keeping moist air around and causing unseasonably high temperatures. This afternoon a cold front will move in, and according to Christopher Luckett, a meteorologist intern with the NWS in Memphis, the interaction of those two fronts will cause the atmosphere to churn.
The critical time for severe thunderstorms to develop, Luckett said, is usually between noon and 9 p.m. Temperatures throughout much of northern Mississippi could reach 69 degrees today, nearly 20 degrees above average.
Those spring-like temperatures are indicative of the kind of changing – sometimes erratic – weather patterns that make winter such a perilous season for weather in the South, Luckett said.
On Thursday the Red Cross also stocked its ERVs in Starkville and Columbus, along with four disaster relief trailers throughout the district.
Kocurek hoped all the preparation would be for nothing, but previous weather disasters during the winter have taught her to keep her guard up.
She cited tornados that ravaged Pontotoc County in February 2001, as well other, more recent storms in Caledonia and Oxford as examples of how ferocious winter storms can be.
Contact Galen Holley at 678-1510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.