BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It's been a rough couple of days for the Southeast, particularly Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. The number of deaths and confirmed tornadoes keep rising, and the damage toll is still being calculated.
While Baton Rouge was clear of most storm activity, for me it has been particularly tense. As many of you know, I grew up in Mississippi. I have a sister in Arkansas and a sister in Tennessee. Both spent a good portion of Monday taking shelter from tornado warnings in their bathrooms with their kids.
Mississippi has a lot of quirks: some good, some bad. One of the best, however, is the fact that everyone knows everyone. That's not an exaggeration; it's an art practiced from birth. As young children, we are taught to learn as much as we can about everyone we meet: Where are you from? Who are your parents? Where did you go to school? What clubs were you in?
Through a brief, but thorough, game of Guess Who, Mississippians weave your life into the tapestry of the state, intertwining your story with their own. When one thread is tugged, we all feel it.
So, it's not surprising that as I watched the radar inch past dozens of towns in Mississippi no one from outside the state has ever heard of, I ticked off a mental list of the people I knew lived in or had family in those areas: Stuart in Yazoo City, Emily and Hart in Tupelo, Lyndsey in Vicksburg, the Graves in Ackerman, the Dicksons in Louisville, the Duncans in Starkville, my parents in Quitman. I'm sure many of you were doing the same thing.
My tapestry was blown and battered as the stormed passed, but fortunately it did not tear. A good deal of my afternoon was spent texting back and forth with friends and family, checking in and getting updates. Thankfully, all are safe and accounted for. However, I know so many families are in mourning today.
Severe weather can be a scary thing, whether it's a hurricane rolling through like a slow moving bulldozer from Hell, or a tornado unpredictably bouncing from town to town like a Tasmanian devil on a demolition pogo stick. Sometimes it's so sudden, it is hard to react much less prepare.
However, Monday's massive storm system is a reminder that we live in a region plagued by severe weather. We are also sitting on the edge of our infamous Fifth Season, hurricane season. We can't know what it will bring, but we can prepare now.
You can start by getting together your severe weather kit which should include any items you may need if you would have to evacuate, or if the power goes out. That includes flashlights, a weather radio, water and non-perishable food items.
Get a game plan together with your family and friends. Should you have to evacuate, figure out where you could go and where you could stay.
Stay informed with the news and local officials to know when it is safe to return. This can be done through several free apps including the State's Get a Game Plan app, the WAFB Titan9 Weather app, and the WAFB News App. All will help you make your plan, and stay up to date.
The Red Cross even has an app to help you track tornadoes and alert family members that you are safe when the storm passes. More info here.
Hurricane season and severe weather are unpredictable. However, if we stay vigilant and prepared, it can be easily weathered.