• 77°

Tornadoes a reminder to be alert

A total of 16 tornadoes (and counting) hit more than 250 buildings across the state Saturday. Survey crews from the National Weather Service were still confirming tornadoes Tuesday.

The worst damage was in Hamilton, where one man died and more than 100 homes and apartments were damaged or destroyed.

In Warren County, including Vicksburg, preliminary assessments show 50 homes, 15 businesses and three public buildings were damaged or destroyed.

The powerful storms that swept through the state left at least eight people dead across the country. Tens of thousands were without power after the storms.

Given the number of tornadoes in the state, it is surprising the damage was not worse. Southwest Mississippi was largely spared, with some damage reported in Walthall County. A few trees were downed here in Lincoln County.

Watches and warnings issued by the National Weather Service helped residents stay safe. Dozens of warnings were issued across the state as storms pushed through. Many of those were issued late at night, when people were likely sleeping.

A NOAA weather radio will sound an alert when a warning is issued for an area, and they can be turned up loud enough to wake you. During an emergency, the National Weather Service will interrupt routine weather radio programming and broadcast a special tone that activates weather radios in the county where severe weather is expected or is happening. They cost about $30.

Smartphones can also alert you to severe weather. Wireless Emergency Alerts are emergency messages sent by authorized government agencies alerting authorities through your mobile carrier. Government partners include local and state public safety agencies, FEMA, the FCC, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Weather Service. New smartphones are equipped to receive this feature, but some older cellphones are not.

Knowing when severe weather will strike is key to saving lives. We encourage everyone to invest in a weather radio and pay attention when severe weather is expected to hit the area.