While the weather today could not be more delightful, a potentially destructive storm system is brewing to the west and emergency management officials are facing a potentially long weekend.
The National Weather Service (NWS) is predicting an outbreak of severe weather beginning Sunday and lasting into Monday and perhaps even Tuesday. The threat is greatest in the north and central parts of the state, but the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is preparing for a possible impact statewide.
At 10 a.m., MEMA officials participated in a joint teleconference with the Storm Prediction Center and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Robert Latham, MEMA executive director, after the call reminded his staff that while the NWS conducting such a teleconference is common, it is a rare event when the Storm Prediction Center and FEMA do so.
Looking at MEMA public information officer Greg Flynn, Latham said, “Some how we have to get the word out that this is no ordinary weather event. My fear is people have become numb to these warnings.”
Latham, however, warned Flynn of overreaching. MEMA is to receive a report from the NWS at 2 p.m. which should give a clearer picture of where the threat stands now.
Still, Latham and Flynn referred to the 2011 tornado outbreak that caused widespread damage, fatalities and obliterated the town of Smithville.
“I want us to go back and look at any problems we saw in 2011. I don’t want us to have those problems this weekend,” he said.
A representative with the Mississippi National Guard reported that Monday represented a day off for Guardsmen, but assured Latham they could be ready at a moments notice with assets, including six Black Hawk helicopters based in Jackson.
Latham also instructed his staff to do an assessment of any large outside events that might be scheduled for the weekend, and ordered them to check with emergency management personnel in north and central Mississippi to insure they were ready for the worst.
The worst could be bad, indeed. The NWS in Jackson is forecasting strong tornadoes and heavy rains that could prompt significant flooding. The highest risk is for areas roughly north of Interstate 20, but an elevated risk includes areas as far south as Hattiesburg.