What to know as spring brings severe weather threat

Oktibbeha County EMA/E911
Staff Writer

With spring and the potential for severe weather quickly approaching, the Oktibbeha County Emergency Management Agency offers important storm safety information for Starkville and Oktibbeha County residents.

“The spring months are usually our most severe time of the year for tornadoes, but anything can happen at anytime,” EMA director Kristen Campanella said.

Campanella said an important aspect of weather safety is having a trustworthy method of receiving weather information. She said Starkville and Oktibbeha County uses CodeRED for severe weather notifications, and Mississippi State University uses Maroon Alert.

“We tell everyone to have several and don’t just depend on one thing,” she said. “There are internet sources, TV, radio and several weather apps that can send you a notification for bad weather. CodeRED does that as well.”

Residents can sign up for CodeRED at www.oktibbehacountyms.org.

According to the National Weather Service, tornado watches are issued for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
Tornado warnings mean a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar, and action should be taken.

Similarly, the National Weather Service defines a severe thunderstorm watch as the possibility of a severe thunderstorm. A severe thunderstorm warning means severe weather has been spotted or indicated by radar, and it may cause damage to life or property.

Campanella said during severe weather, including thunderstorms and tornadoes, it is crucial to stay indoors in the innermost room of a building and away from windows.

“Try to put as many walls as you can between you and the outside,” she said. “If you’re in a mobile home, try to get out, and get out of a vehicle.”

Oktibbeha County Humane Society Outreach Coordinator Sarah Buckleitner said during severe weather, pets should also be brought inside.

“Bring them inside and away from windows, just like you would do for yourself,” Buckleitner said. “Make sure their collar ID is up to date, and have a leash ready so that you don’t get separated in an emergency.”

Along with being aware of a safe place indoors, Campanella said everyone also needs to have an emergency kit, including: 72 hours supply non-perishable food, one gallon of water per day per person, flashlights, batteries, first aid kit, tools to turn off water and gas, medications, important documents, emergency cash, clothes and fire extinguisher.

Buckleitner said drinking water and pet food should also be included in emergency kits for pets.

“We also always tell people to get an emergency supply kit that can keep you safe for 72 hours,” Campanella said. “If damage happens in your area, it may take a little while for help to get to you because of debris.”

In the case of flash flooding, Campanella quoted the common phrase, “Don’t drown, turn around,” while driving.

“If you can’t see the ground, don’t drive through it,” she said. “You don’t know how deep it is and you don’t know what the roadway is like underneath the water.”