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School of Ocean Science and Engineering

Resources > Severe Weather Preparedness

 Severe Weather Preparedness

Purpose: To provide all personnel with instructions concerning DMS operations in the event that destructive weather threatens SSC and/or the surrounding area.

Discussion: Destructive weather is considered to be tropical in nature. Should tropical weather threaten SSC or the surrounding area, all possible precautions are to be taken to safeguard personnel, equipment and materials. This plan is intended to provide the guidance necessary prior, during and following tropical weather threats that will help DMS personnel accomplish the above objectives while providing for Department needs and ensuring the necessary coordination with other activities and agencies on site. Other forms of destructive weather include severe tornadic breakouts, severe thunderstorm activity, or winter storms with freezing and destructive winds. In these cases as well as other emergencies, communication procedures as outlined below will apply.

When considering whether to evacuate or not, it is worth remembering that tropical weather systems (even depressions) can cause wide-spread destruction and/or flooding. Coastal communities have the greatest vulnerability, but destruction due to wind, rain and flooding can occur at significant distances inland. If you evacuate to a safer location, please be reminded that there is no assurance that you will be able to return to your home for an extended period of time. If you plan to evacuate, earlier is better than later, and you must consider route, traffic, and perhaps even fuel availability.

Lastly, regardless of where you live near the coast, or to where you evacuate, if a major storm threatens you must realize that you and those for whom you are responsible may be without any assistance, modern conveniences, availability of food, shelter, medical care, money, etc., for an extended period of time. Local shelters must house residents of their county/city and could fill quickly, so have an alternate plan in place. Very Important: MOST SHELTERS DO NOT ACCEPT PETS. If you have any pet, regardless of size or if it is kept in a cage, shelters will not house pets. Please be sure to have a plan for your pets. Please keep these considerations in mind as you prepare your personal destructive weather preparedness plan. 

Procedures: NASA has overall responsibility for setting necessary conditions of readiness for anticipated tropical weather. NASA has responsibility for closing SSC due to impending weather, recovery operations during and following destructive weather and declaring the site open for normal operations once the weather has passed. While SSC is closed, gate security will admit only essential personnel (as designated by DMS). Any other employee will not be allowed on site for any reason (such as checking facilities or simply driving through as a short cut).  Keep in mind that Stennis will no longer serve as a shelter for employees, their families, or local citizens.

However, the above does not preclude the DMS or USM from taking earlier precautions should this be deemed prudent. Such a decision is the responsibility of the Department Chair or in his/her absence the senior faculty member present. It is important to emphasize that precautions must be undertaken in sufficient time to both provide for an orderly shutdown of the DMS, as well as the dismissal of personnel with sufficient time to implement their personal destructive weather preparations.

Condition IV: Status is declared when the National Weather Service warns that destructive force winds are expected to reach the Mississippi Gulf Coast within 72 hours.  Check outdoor areas for loose material that could become a missile hazard. DMS facility manager, or staff, should double check emergency generator operational status. All department vehicles should have their fuel tanks topped off. When deemed appropriate during Condition IV or Condition III, all personnel will be asked to back up files, move external hard drives to the computer space, cover computers with plastic bags, lift power supplies and other electronics off the floor and cover with plastic bags, and consider moving easily damaged equipment and furniture away from windows. All personnel should review their personal preparedness plan, home preparations and stay alert to potential evacuation recommendations.

Condition III: Status is declared when the National Weather Service warns that destructive force winds are expected to reach the Mississippi Gulf Coast within 48 hours. Take other precautions as necessary. Ensure the DMS emergency generator fuel tank is topped off. Faculty should make preparations to secure/back-up important records, data and samples and secure research equipment. Move computers from exposed offices to more secure locations away from windows, etc. Computers and other electronics (including instruments) should be turned off and unplugged in case of a power surge or loss of power. All personnel should be listening for announcements concerning recommended (voluntary) or ordered (mandatory) evacuation from emergency management officials and take appropriate action. Plans for the orderly interruption of on-going laboratory operations should be implemented. Master list of phone numbers and evacuation locations of each employee should be updated. Personal preparations at home should be completed, and personnel must be alert to recommended or ordered evacuation.

Condition II: Status is declared when the National Weather Service warns that destructive force winds are expected to reach the Mississippi Gulf Coast within 24 hours. Department vehicles will be moved into Building 1029 (AC bay and High Bay).  Sensitive equipment will be secured, vessels will be moved inside the high bay of 1029. Non-essential personnel are to be dismissed. All personnel should be listening to local radio and television stations for announcements of evacuation. Mandatory and/or recommended evacuations of surrounding areas are likely and affected personnel should take appropriate action. Local shelters will be prepared for occupancy.

Condition I: Status is declared when the National Weather Service warns that destructive force winds are expected to reach the Mississippi Gulf Coast within 12 hours. Local hurricane shelters are open. All personnel should have completed or instituted their own destructive weather plans by this time. 

Post Storm Recovery: SSC will remain closed as long as the site is located within a National Weather Service Tropical Storm or Hurricane Warning area. While SSC is closed, gate security will admit only "essential personnel" as pre-determined by the company and the necessity of having a qualified employee onsite during an emergency. After the National Weather Service warnings are lifted, SSC Incident Command will decide to re-open the site based on local area damage, conditions and damage at SSC.  To obtain information about re-opening of the site and return to work, monitor local TV/radio stations or call the SSC Emergency Operations Center at 228-688-3777, or check the SSC Site Status app on your phone. While coordinating with NASA, the Department Chair may ask selected personnel to assist in recovery prior to SSC being opened by NASA. Except for those exceptions requested by the Department Chair, DMS personnel are not to report back to work. Once NASA declares the SSC site open, DMS personnel will report back to work, initiate any necessary corrective actions, and re-establish normal routine operations. Vehicles and vessels will remain in building 1029 until the person responsible for them returns to site. Personnel who cannot return in a timely manner are to notify DMS office personnel who will maintain a record of their report and notify the Department Chair.

Communications: A list of local radio and TV stations that carry weather information and announcements by NASA SSC officials concerning the conditions at the SSC site is located below. All public service announcements will be made by NASA officials and will not be made by University or DMS personnel. Once opened for operations, faculty and staff should be able to be reached via normal working phone numbers. DMS specific information will be available at 228-688-3177.

Important: Any personnel who evacuate the area should leave a forwarding address and contact information with the departmental administrative staff, at extensions 8-7097 or 8-3177. It will be assumed that personnel that have not provided forwarding information have remained at their listed home address. Therefore, it is very important that you let department administrators know if you are evacuating your home, as failure to do so could potentially result in wasted use of precious emergency response personnel. Further, if your return to SSC is delayed for any reason (flooding, road closures, transportation delays, etc.) you should contact the department as soon as practical.


Personal Preparation Considerations

When destructive weather threatens south Louisiana and coastal Mississippi, SSC employees and families are advised to evacuate to a safe area outside the storm's path. If this is not possible then other options for safe shelter include:

  • Their local communities if safe shelters exist. Call local Civil Defense, and/or emergency managers to determine the location of approved shelter locations in your area. Call 211 for information on various services, including food, clothing, shelters and transportation assistance.

Employees should plan to be away from home a minimum of 2-3 days, and will need the following items:

  • Flashlight with extra batteries, blankets, water (1 gallon per person per day), portable radio/TV with extra batteries, personal toiletries and hygiene items, non-perishable food items, manual can opener, prescription drugs, baby-care items (diapers, formula, etc.), clothing, and portable (non-electric) entertainment (book, cards, games, etc.)
  • Consideration should be given to carrying personal papers of importance, for example, social security cards, birth certificates, passports, insurance papers, bank account information, auto registrations, etc. For DMS personnel, consider carrying your backup computer and research files on an external storage device.
  • If you own a truck, fuel canisters can be vital equipment if gas/service stations have been shut down due to lack of power or flood.
  • If you have extra room in your vehicle, take any personal items that have sentimental value: photos, books, trinkets/decorations, etc. These are invaluable and most likely irreplaceable, and should be taken with you if possible.

The following items are not allowed at any shelter: alcohol, non-prescription drugs, weapons, pets, and hazardous materials.



Additional Notes:

Pets - If you have a pet(s), your personal destructive weather plan becomes more complex. Few shelters accept pets, and you will be turned away. Many hotels and motels will not accept pets either, regardless of the size of the animal. If you think evacuation from your home is a possibility, it is recommended that you have several possible destinations identified well ahead of time.

Cell Phones – If destructive weather hits, cellular phone service may not be available. Text messages have a more likely chance of getting through over phone/voice calls. Those who have local phone numbers may experience outage issues before those with out-of-area/state phone numbers.  Many emergency management plans call for cellular phone service to be dedicated for disaster relief/recovery efforts in the event of major damage. Be aware that normal communications may not be available, and this is likely to include cellular service if a major storm makes landfall.

Possibility of a Hard Freeze – Although rare, there have been times in the past where NASA has closed SSC due to a hard freeze and/or sleet/icy conditions. The same conditions apply here as during a tropical storm/hurricane: prepare for impassable roads, power outages, and possible lack of communication. Be sure to have extra blankets and warm clothes, plenty of potable water (pipes can and will freeze in the winter months), and non-perishable food items. No electricity = no heat and no use of stove, oven, or microwave.

Tornado/Tornadic Activity – At Stennis, there exists a warning system that will notify employees of a tornado in the area. This includes emails, radio announcements, and the outdoor loudspeaker system. Follow the guidelines below to protect yourself from a tornado:

-If you are in a sturdy structure or building

  • Go to the lowest level of the building when the warning sounds
  • Take cover in an internal hallway, closet or small room, away from windows. Tornado shelter locations in Bldg 1020, 1022, and 1029 (click links for building layouts)
  • Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table if available and use your arms to protect your head and neck.

-In a mobile work trailer or office:

  • Get out immediately and go to a pre-identified location such as the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.

-Outside with no shelter: If you are not in a sturdy building, there is no single research-based recommendation for what last-resort action to take because many factors can affect your decision.  Possible actions include:

  • Get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest SSC building to seek shelter. If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Take cover in a stationary vehicle. Put the seat belt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
  • Lie in an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.

NEVER seek shelter under a highway overpass! The reason has to do with the way the tornado's winds could potentially interact with the bridge structure. At the very least, taking shelter under an overpass puts you at a higher elevation with no protection from debris and winds.

Local TV/Radio Stations

Mississippi/Gulf Coast:

Radio stations:

90.3 FM, Biloxi - MPB/NPR
93.7 FM, Biloxi - Magic 93.7, Continuous Soft Rock
94.5 FM, Gulfport - JZ94.5, Urban Contemporary
95.3 FM, Lumberton - Gorilla, Today's Hits
97.9 FM, D'Iberville - CPR, Rock/Alternative
99.1 FM, Pascagoula - K99, Today's Best Country
102.3 FM, Gulfport/Biloxi - Coast 102, Greatest Hits of All Time
103.1 FM, Ocean Springs - Coast SuperTalk, Gospel and Local News/Events
104.9 FM, Moss Point - News Radio
105.9 FM, Pascagoula/Biloxi - The Bob, We Play Anything
107.1 FM, Gulfport Biloxi - The Monkey, Today's Hits
107.9 FM, Bay St. Louis to Pascagoula - Kicker 108, Country

1320 AM, Picayune - Country Music
1390 AM, Gulfport - Old Standards
1490/1640 AM, Gulfport - The Champ, Sports Radio

Local Television Stations:

Hattiesburg - WDAM (NBC, ABC) Ch.7
Biloxi - WLOX (ABC, CBS) Ch.13
Gulfport - WXXV (FOX, NBC) Ch.25

New Orleans/Northshore Louisiana:

Radio stations:  
90.7 FM, WWOZ - Jazz and Blues
94.7 FM,  Lacombe, LA - The Lake, Current Hits
95.7 FM, the Bayou - Classic Rock
97.1 FM, B97 - All the Hits
101.1 FM, WNOE - Country
105.3 FM, WWL - News, Talk, and Sports Leader
870 AM, WWL - News, Talk, and Sports Leader

Local Television Stations:

WWL (CBS) Ch.4
WGNO (ABC) Ch.26