The threat of strong tornadoes and other damaging weather on Easter posed a 2X-edged safety dilemma for Deep South communities deciding how to protect residents during the coronavirus lockdown.
An outbreak of severe thunderstorms was likely Sunday from Louisiana through the Tennessee Valley, the National Weather Service said.
More than 4.5-M people live in the area where dangerous weather was most likely, including Birmingham and Jackson, Mississippi, the Storm Prediction Center said on its website.
The National Weather Service office in Jackson told residents to brace for the possibility of long-lasting tornadoes, wind gusts up to 70 mph and tennis ball-size hail through Sunday evening. Waves of storms with occasional lulls could continue into early Monday, with as much as 3 inches of rain possible.
“This could be one of our bigger events we have had in a long time around here. Take this seriously,” a weather service forecaster said in a public briefing broadcast live from the agency’s Birmingham-area office Saturday.
Seeking protection from violent weather during the coronavirus pandemic will present a challenge for some.
With many churches having ended traditional, indoor services because of the viral outbreak, congregations planned to hold online services or drive-in worship where people sit in vehicles, which are a bad place to be during a tornado. Some churches announced they were moving up Easter drive-in service Saturday afternoon because of the threat.
Community storm shelters presented another problem.
Although forecasters and the Alabama Department of Public Health advised people to seek protection in public storm shelters if faced with the possibility of twisters, some communities, citing COVID-19 coronavirus, said they would not open shelters Sunday.
The decision against opening shelters was at odds with a message from Governor Kay Ivey.
Both the National Weather Service and the State Public Health Department remind Alabamians that the use of shelters and other resources take precedent, should the need arise.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency sent a tweet Saturday saying shelters would open. It encouraged residents entering 1 to wear masks, use hand sanitizer and stay 6 ft apart.
Strong storms earlier in the week caused damage in the Midwest.
Have a happy healthy Easter and Passover weekend, stay home, Keep the Faith!