Saturday, September 26, 2020

Local Meteorologist Addresses COVID-19 Concerns Amid Severe Weather

With April right around, we’re about to hit the peak of the severe weather season in our area, which often continues through May.

WTVA meteorologist Matt Laubhan says he’s already talking to viewers about what do do if a tornado warning occurs in the midst of this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is potential for very significant, very widespread loss of life with the coronavirus, but there is a very immediate potential that occurs with a tornado, with a tornado warning,” Laubhan said.

He is concerned that some people may consider avoiding community storm shelters during a tornado warning because of their fears regarding COVID-19.

“My very strong opinion on this is you go to the shelter. If you think a tornado is going to impact you… a tornado hitting a mobile home will kill you. The coronavirus hitting you could kill you and could injure you, but it might not.”

Last year, Mississippi set a record for the number of tornadoes occurring in a single year. Of the 115 in the state in 2019, 67 touched down in April.

Laubhan is quick to point out that there are ways to minimize your risks when you do go to a shelter.

“Wear masks. Do everything possible to try to isolate yourself there but, if you’re crammed in there, it’s a lot better than if you’re at home and not safe.”

The National Weather Service has a webpage devoted to Mississippi tornado safety. Laubhan acknowledges that the decision to seek shelter in a public space won’t be easy, but says it is imperative.

“I always say with a tornado it’s a series of bad choices. You make the least bad choice. And the least bad choice is to go to a storm shelter. It’s not a good choice, but it’s the least bad.”


Story contributed by Deb Wenger (drwenger@olemiss.edu).