As I write this, the gulf tropical storm is now determined to be hurricane strength. Hurricane Sally formed earlier this morning and appeared to shift east, placing Mississippi’s and Alabama’s entire coasts under a hurricane warning while veering away from Louisiana, where the southwest coast is still recovering from Hurricane Laura. Sally is threatening to make landfall today as a Category 2 storm. According to the National Hurricane Center, data is showing that wind speeds are strengthening, and the storm could hit the coast with 105 mph winds, just a few miles per hour shy of a Category 3 designation. The latest update is predicting that the storm is expected to make landfall in the Biloxi area.
The State of Mississippi is well experienced with hurricanes. The governor has declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, and immense safety preparations and precautions are being made in our coastal counties. I am confident that all measures are being taken to protect the citizens in the storm’s path.
The question that most of us have is “How does this hurricane and other similar storms affect us in North Mississippi?”
History has proven that hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, particularly making landfall in Mississippi, have wreaked havoc as they move across the state. Vast amounts of rainfall, high winds and tornadic weather almost always affect our community. Hurricane Sally is projected to make landfall and angle toward the northeast, positioning Tupelo on the east side of the storm. The east side of these disturbances is always the most vulnerable for stormy weather. We experienced these storms as Hurricane Katrina blew through our area. I have a vivid memory of being trapped underneath rubble in my home when Tropical Storm Olga came through last October. An emergency plan is a top priority for my family and me.
I encourage each of you to be weather aware, have an emergency plan and kit, and prepare in advance of these volatile weather conditions. A complete emergency kit list can be found at www.ready.gov/kit. The basics for an emergency kit for your family should include:
Water and canned or dried food –
- families should set aside one gallon of water per person per day to last three days, and a three-day supply of food per person
- Battery powered radio
- Extra batteries for the radio and flashlight
- Prescription medications
- First-aid kit
Planning for a weather event should include determining where you will take shelter. In tornadic weather, an interior room with no windows is advised. An underground basement is most ideal. As in all tornadic weather, the shelters in Tupelo will be open for those seeking safety.
While we make our preparations here in Tupelo, we applaud our trained personnel who have traveled to our coastal counties to assist our neighbors. I commend members of the Tupelo Fire Department who recently traveled to Cameron and Lake Charles, Louisiana, conducting primary searches of structure and swift water rescues after Hurricane Laura. These men were Captain Brad Robinson and Captain Terry Robinson. This morning, four other brave firefighters – Captain Brad Robinson, Captain Chad Blankenship, Sergeant Levi Tutor, and Firefighter Tyler Ligon – traveled to Pearl River and Hancock counties, where they will assist in the Hurricane Sally search and rescue.
All of these men representing the City of Tupelo in the search and rescue efforts are highly trained and skilled. Our city has the very best in Chief Thomas Walker and his team at Tupelo Fire Department. I am grateful for their service and bravery every single day, but I am especially proud in these times where their training is helping our fellow Mississippians and neighbors in Louisiana.
Today and in the days to come, be weather alert and ready to act. Stay safe, everyone.