ARES®, SKYWARN Activated as Tornadoes Swing Through the South
On the evening of Monday, November 29, a series of severe storms swept through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, with hams providing support from the National Weather Service (NWS) office. According to the NWS, seven tornadoes were embedded in the storm system, with at least six counties reporting damage. There were no deaths in the latest storms, though 15 people were hurt in Mississippi and buildings were badly damaged there and in Louisiana. Schools were closed in Alabama and tornado watches were posted in Tennessee and parts of North and South Carolina on Tuesday as the storms moved east.
In Central Mississippi, the NWS office in Jackson activated SKWARN in advance of the storm. “This provided NWS personnel with numerous reports that assisted in making preliminary damage assessments and short term storm predictions,” ARRL Mississippi Section Manager Malcolm Keown, W5XX, told the ARRL. “These reports related to structural damage, power outages, trees down and roads blocked. Hams at the Jackson office using the call sign WX5JAN were on the air until sunrise the next morning. Word that hams were providing information to the NWS filtered to the local TV stations, resulting in some nice public relations for Amateur Radio.”
Keown said that emergency ARES® nets were also activated in Jasper and Yazoo Counties, as was the Northeast Mississippi SKYWARN net.
Yazoo County Emergency Coordinator Glenn Patterson, KE5YES, said that there was significant damage in the Yazoo City downtown area, but overall, the total damage was not nearly as bad as that caused by the tornados this past April. Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn told the Associated Press that the damage included “a lot of windows blown out, some roof damage and very little power in the downtown area” of Yazoo City.
One of the hardest hit places in Mississippi was the town of Starkville, home to MFJ. An employee told the ARRL that even though the tornado destroyed a mobile home park across the street from their building, they escaped relatively unscathed. No one was injured, as everyone had gone home for the day, but the metal shop building suffered minor damage, with some of the tin roof coming off in the strong winds.
Much of the damage occurred on the south side of Starkville, where dozens of homes were damaged in the Pines Mobile Home Park, according to the Starkville Police Department. Several units were overturned, and trash cans, branches, porches and other debris lined the streets and lots. Police have only allowed residents back in to gather clothes and other belongings.