February 6, 2024
Mississippi's Spring Severe Weather Awareness Week is Feb. 11-17, and Starkville Utilities is joining the National Weather Service, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and others in encouraging area residents and businesses to make severe weather planning and preparation a priority.
“Whenever severe weather approaches, it’s often too late to start working on a preparedness plan,” said Edward Kemp, general manager of Starkville Utilities. “We’re urging residents to learn how they can prepare for severe weather and keep themselves and their families safe.”
The first step is being informed. Oktibbeha County residents are encouraged to sign up for CodeRED, a free emergency notification service that issues weather and other emergency alerts through phone calls, text messages, emails and social media.
A record-breaking 136 tornadoes touched down in Mississippi in 2022. In the spring of 2023, 50 tornadoes touched down, including an EF-4 tornado in Rolling Fork and an EF-3 tornado in Amory. While spring is the most active season for tornadoes, Mississippi usually sees significant storms during a secondary severe weather season from November through December.
In addition to tornadoes, Mississippi is prone to damaging thunderstorms, wind, hail, flash floods and lightning. These weather systems can develop very quickly, leaving little time for people in the impact area to take immediate action to stay safe.
For preparedness plans to be successful, it’s important to understand the terminology used to describe oncoming weather systems. A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms and tornados to develop. A tornado warning means a developing tornado has been detected by radar or has been reported on the ground by reliable sources. When local tornado warnings are issued, residents should seek shelter immediately.
Flash floods also occur suddenly and can be forceful enough to overtake people and objects in their path. During periods of heavy rain, stay away from stream beds, drainage ditches, culverts and other flood-prone areas.
Lightning is another serious threat during severe weather. Last year, 13 lightning-related fatalities were reported in the U.S. During thunderstorms, avoid being out in the open and find a safe shelter, such as a home, office or hard-top vehicle with the windows rolled up.
In a disaster, it may be as long as 72 hours before first responders are able to provide assistance. Residents should keep disaster kits on hand with a three-day supply of water and food (human and pet) as well as flashlights, batteries, portable radios and other necessities. A variety of preparedness resources and disaster guides are available on the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency website.
Electrical infrastructure is also vulnerable during severe weather. That’s why utilities have mutual assistance agreements in place to provide extra support for power-restoration efforts. Industry teamwork was demonstrated last year when Starkville Utilities and other crews helped rebuild Amory’s electrical system after a tornado.
“The utility industry prepares year-round to respond to weather threats, and it’s also important for the public to be prepared,” Kemp said. “We’re raising awareness about Severe Weather Preparedness Week as part of a statewide effort to improve safety and potentially save lives.”
Starkville Utilities is a municipally owned and operated electric and water utility, serving more than 14,000 residences, businesses and industries in Starkville as well as the state’s largest institution of higher learning, Mississippi State University.