Severe Thunderstorms moved through the south half of Mississippi on Thursday afternoon January 24, 2002 causing widespread damage. Severe thunderstorms produce winds in excess of 58 miles an hour and/or three-quarter inch hail. In some areas winds reached as high as 80 miles an hour.
The Severe thunderstorms and their associated strong winds snapped off trees, uprooted or blew down trees, damaged houses and buildings, and blew down power poles and power lines. Fortunately no injuries were reported, but imagine if someone was in a house where a huge tree fell across the middle of it.
The National Weather Service in Jackson issued 38 Tornado and Severe Thunderstorm warnings on Thursday. While no tornadoes have been verified, there were 26 counties that experienced damage from severe thunderstorms. These thunderstorm winds caused millions of dollars in damage.
The state of Mississippi experiences thousands of thunderstorms a year, hundreds of these become severe and cause damage from wind or hail. The state only averages 26 tornadoes a year, so the likelihood of any one place being hit by a tornado is much less than it would be from a severe thunderstorm. Yearly, severe thunderstorms cause much more damage than tornadoes do. This is why it is very important to pay attention to Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. They should be treated just like a Tornado Warning. When a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued, take the same protective action you would if it were a Tornado Warning.
It is also very important that you have a means of receiving severe weather information. NOAA Weather Radio, The Voice Of the National Weather Service, is your best source of weather information. It must be noted that many communities in the state do not sound sirens for severe thunderstorm warnings, only for tornado warnings. On Thursday, people said they didn't get the warnings even though the National Weather Service had warnings issued well in advance of the when the damage occurred. This is because they were expecting sirens to sound and had no other source of receiving the warning.
The National Weather Service would ask that people pay close attention to the weather and have a reliable source of receiving weather information. Then, when warnings are issued, take action immediately to protect your life and property.