Chickasaw County Emergency Management has drastically expanded disaster response since 2011 tornadoes

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HOUSTON, Miss. (WCBI) – Just six months after taking over as Emergency Management director of Chickasaw County, Linda Griffin found herself responding to not one, but two EF-3 tornados on April 27th, 2011.

“We had the 3 a.m. tornado, we’re thinking, that’s what we are going to have for that day,” Griffin said. “We had people out working, cleaning up.”

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Then the second one hit at 3 p.m.

“We could actually see it from the door while we were in the courthouse,” said Tiffany Lovvorn, the Chickasaw County Chancery Clerk. “We could actually see the tornado and then, all of a sudden, it was just gone.”

But in their wake, they left $2 million worth of damage, three dead and nearly 500 homes that were either damaged or destroyed.

“From having shingles torn off to the house being totally destroyed,” Griffin said, describing the range of damage. “Some of them with the residents inside their house.”

“We were overwhelmed,” she added. “Our ambulances were quickly overwhelmed with the injuries.”

Since then, Griffin has done everything she can to make sure they are never overwhelmed again.

In the 10 years since those EF-3 tornados hit Chickasaw County, they’ve tried to add seven to eight tornado shelters throughout the area each year. Each one is built to withstand winds of 250 miles per hour.

“There are approximately 30 (shelters) at different locations spread out through the county,” Griffin says.

That extreme focus on disaster preparedness has extended into people’s own homes.

“They’re building safe rooms within their houses now,” she says of county residents. “Which is wonderful, especially in the middle of the night. You don’t have to get up and get in your vehicle and go somewhere, you’re safe at your home.”

Griffin says businesses, schools and the entire community of Chickasaw County have built a spirit of self-reliance for when, not if the worst should happen.

“When multiple counties are struck, like that day, surrounding us, there’s not any help coming from other counties because they’re impacted as well,” she said.

Between the advancements in technology, new alert systems and other precautions, Griffin says, they are so much safer now than they were 10 years ago.

“It will make the difference in saving lives if a tornado impacts this county as it did back in 2011,” she said.