Weather prompts safety protocols, little damage

Public Works crews clean a drainage culvert during Wednesday's heavy rains.
Staff Writer

Radar-indicated funnel clouds in the atmosphere and the tornado warnings they sparked kept some Clay County school students in hallways under severe weather protocols for an hour or more Wednesday.

The warnings and school precautions came as the remnants of Hurricane Gordon drenched the Golden Triangle and surrounding areas, sparking localized flooding and some wind but little lightning.

The National Weather Service reported possible small tornado touchdowns near Brooksville in northern Noxubee and southern Lowndes counties and at one point told some media outlets one had touched down in Clay County.

However, the Clay County report was quickly dispelled although radar indicated circulation near Tibbee at about 2:30 p.m. and again near Una at about 3:09 p.m.

The first tornado warning for Clay County went off at about 2:25 p.m. and the second one came just before 3 p.m., lasting until 3:30 p.m.

Oktibbeha County also was under a tornado warning for part of the time.

The warnings sent younger students into hallways or safe places, stopped all dismissals, and kept older students from leaving in their cars.

Once the weather cleared the main West Point area, students who drive cars could leave although ones who live in the county were encouraged to remain until the weather cleared.

The same rules applied to parents who were picking up their children at school, which caused some frustration for parents who waited in lines at schools.
Buses weren't allowed to leave with children until the warnings were lifted because some buses have routes that run well into the county. High winds can be treacherous for buses.

The warnings lasted so long because unlike traditional severe weather patterns which run from southwest to northeast, Wednesday's weather pattern started in the southeastern area of the county and moved northwest through Una and Montpelier.
"Our first priority is the students' safety and that's what we focus on," Schools Superintendent Burnell McDonald. "I know some parents won't be happy, but we have to make safety first. It's a no-win situation, but we want children in the saves possible place."

To minimize localized flooding, city public works crews monitored streets, cleaning leaves and debris from drainage culverts. Police and sheriff's deputies helped Emergency Management Director Torrey Williams and emergency responders monitor the storm's path for possible damage.

"We had rotation shown on radar, some debris, but nothing major," Williams said.