Jackson, MS – Beginning Tuesday, February 1, 2011 a strong system of severe winter weather marched along a 2,100 mile path through the plains, southern, Midwestern and northeastern states of the United States affecting about one-third of the country's population. However, the severe weather of major thunderstorms and possible tornadoes predicted for the Deep South was not as severe as originally anticipated and there was no major damage reported from the system in the ALM Division.
Following behind that storm front, however, was an arctic cold front that brought snow and freezing rain to much of The Salvation Army’s ALM Division. The Salvation Army increased its shelter capacity and, in some instances, dispatched Canteens to support other shelters or emergencies in their local areas of responsibility.
Although the weather was not as severe as expected, the results of the frigid winter temperatures that followed were. As the storm was passing through Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, the National Weather Service began to predict the likelihood of a winter severe weather event that would include some minor snowfall in northern Mississippi and Alabama along with light to moderate freezing rain throughout large portions of the region. This, in fact, did occur with all three states being impacted to varying degrees by icy sleet and rain that closed roads and bridges, forced school, business and government offices to close early on Thursday or open late on Friday, and resulted in multiple vehicle accidents, some of which involved fatalities.
Please note below a synopsis of The Salvation Army’s response to the extremely cold weather and thunderstorms of this week.
The Birmingham Area Command supported the cold-weather shelter in Jefferson County on Tuesday night with coffee as they normally do during any cold weather event. They had a total of 40 additional people that stayed in the shelter on Thursday night. The shelter anticipates increasing numbers over the weekend.
The Gadsden, Ala. Corps had a 20% increase in shelter occupants and a 25% increase in feeding program due to the cold weather.
The Walker County (Jasper), AL, Service Center provided food, blankets and warm clothing to the warming shelters in Jasper, AL.
The Lake Charles (LA) Corps has been operating under their cold weather status during the entire cold snap. Shelter operations were at capacity (36) plus 8 extra cold weather cots filled. The Mobile Feeding Unit will be providing hot meals in the community on Friday evening.
The New Orleans Area Command's shelter was filled to capacity last night. Contingency plans were in place to add cots in various locations in the Center of Hope to house any overflow. The Area Command also deployed its' Canteen to support the city's overflow shelter operation. The Canteen fed over one hundred people and supplied blankets for those in need. Homeland Security for New Orleans has asked them to return again tonight (Friday, February 4, 2011).
The Jackson Area Coordinate dispatched its' Canteen to a hazardous materials incident in Yazoo County early Friday morning after three semi-trucks collided. One of those trucks was carrying 700 gallons of diesel fuel which had to be transferred to another tanker before it could be moved. It is expected that this operation could take up to 7 hours. As a result, Yazoo County EMA asked The Salvation Army to respond and support the responders on scene.
The Hattiesburg (MS) Corps opened its' Center of Hope shelter at 1:00 PM on Thursday, February 3, 2011 for anyone that needed a place to go due to the cold temperature and freezing rain. They had 32 people in the shelter on Thursday night. The shelter will remain open during the day on Friday, February 4.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Area Command - Pascagoula Corps: The Corps had 10 additional people on Thursday night as a result of the cold weather. They are expecting to have between 10-15 additional individuals on top of their normal residents through these cold weather nights. As of Friday morning, the Pascagoula Corps is the only cold weather shelter in Jackson County, MS.
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