Consider social distancing in severe weather preparation
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The state’s current shelter-in-place order and state of emergency related to COVID-19 adds an extra variable in planning for severe weather.
The National Weather Service has forecasted an enhanced risk of severe thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes across the southern half of Mississippi for the afternoon and evening of April 13.
Officials with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the Mississippi State Department of Health suggest that in the event of a severe weather emergency during a pandemic, a potential tornado poses the most immediate threat.
Anne Howard Hilbun-Benoit, instructor with the MSU Extension Center for Government and Community Development, stressed making the best possible decisions on sheltering depending on available options.
“Now is the time to begin taking precautions, whether you and your family typically shelter from a tornado in your home or go to a community shelter,” she said. “If the latter is your best option, call well ahead of time to verify its availability. Some cities may mandate that you have some sort of face covering, so ask for any additional best practices at the shelter location you plan on using.”
MEMA Director of External Affairs Malary White recommended anyone using a public storm shelter to keep practicing social distancing to the best of their abilities.
“For mobile home residents, you should abandon the mobile home in favor of a sturdy building during severe weather. This alternative structure should be a part of a severe weather plan that is identified well in advance,” White said. “If you’re at home, take shelter in a closet, bathroom, interior hallway or other interior room with no windows on the lowest level of the house or building.”
In any instance of severe weather preparation, make sure to have more than one way to receive emergency notifications.
“Always follow the advice of your local meteorologists and local news media outlets for updates and additional information regarding severe weather,” Hilbun-Benoit said.