After an EF-5 tornado in 2011 leveled Smithville and killed 16 people, area public officials examined ways of improving weather warning systems with the goal of saving lives.
Three years and one day after the Smithville storm, an EF-3 tornado ripped through the much more heavily populated Tupelo area and then headed on to Itawamba County. Only one person died in that tornado April 28, none in structures.
Many factors contributed to the extremely low fatality rate, but surely among the most significant is a new system that resulted from thatpost-Smithville examination.
In 2012, Lee County’s Board of Supervisors adopted the CodeRED weather warning system which provides timely alerts on severe weather. So did the other seven counties in the Three Rivers Planning and Development District – Itawamba, Monroe, Chickasaw, Pontotoc, Union, Calhoun and Lafayette.
In addition, all counties in the Northeast Mississippi Planning and Development District – Tishomingo, Prentiss, Alcorn, Tippah, Benton and Marshall – now have the service.
CodeRED tracks severe weather and warns people in its path with a recorded phone message. It’s free for residents within those counties but requires them to sign up online. Those without computers must seek family, friends and neighbors with Internet access to help them register.
Three Rivers PDD county residents may register at www.trpdd.com/codered. Those in Northeast PDD counties should go to www.nempdd.com and click on the CodeRED icon.
Participants must enter their home and cellphone numbers, address and which weather alerts they want: tornado, severe thunderstorm or flash flood.
Obviously, those who had this service benefited greatly from it last week. While there are other weather alerts available, CodeRED has the advantage of being free, accurate and narrowly focused on areas that are truly threatened.
The Lee County Board of Supervisors and other boards in the region made a wise and prudent investment when they went to this system. Protecting public safety is the first responsibility of government, and CodeRED fits right in with that role.
Sirens are an important element of warning systems, but as we saw last week, they don’t always function effectively, and they don’t give specific information. CodeRED does both. It’s worth pondering whether Winston County, which suffered the bulk of last week’s 14 deaths statewide, might have had fewer fatalities if it CodeRED had been available to its residents.
If you don’t have this service, sign up for it while the memory of last week’s tornado – and its minimal loss of life in our region’s CodeRED counties – is fresh on your mind.