Randy Bell has been covering Mississippi news for 38 years. He's thinking about making a career out of it. After getting his start in radio as a DJ at his hometown station in Vernon, Alabama (his first words on the air were introducing a song by Herman's Hermits), Randy thought he wanted to get involved in the technical side of the business. But after one semester of 8 AM labs, he decided a degree in Electrical Engineering at MSU wasn't a good idea and switched to Communications although he was already working in a local station and learning more about radio on the job than in school.
In 1975, Randy applied at WJDX as either a DJ or news reporter. Turns out, the station had an opening only in news and the rest is history. He has covered nine governors and six hurricanes, and has witnessed six executions. He has flown with the Blue Angels and had lunch at the White House.
Randy has been named Mississippi's Radio Newsperson of the Year 18 times and has won 21 national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He coordinates Mississippi's Emergency Alert System and helped develop the state's AMBER Alert plan.
He and his wife, Pat, have been married for 40 years and they have two children and five grandchildren.
People living in mobile homes are always being warned to leave and go to a safe place during a severe weather threat. But many people may not feel like they've got a lot of options. Miss. Emergency Management director Robert Latham says some perfectly good safe places aren't being used. More than $182 million has been spent to build 63 community storm shelters since Hurricane Katrina, most of those in south Mississippi. But Latham says many of them are sitting empty during severe storms. He's encouraging local officials to open those shelters on a regular basis to give people living in mobile homes a safe place to ride out a storm. Latham says some people think the shelters were designed to house hurricane evacuees but that's not the primary reason they were built.
Those street-level maps we see on television during tornado warnings could be a little misleading. The National Weather Service says it's noticing a trend during our stronger storms for the tornado to touch down up to a mile away from where the main rotation is showing up on radar. That's because those storms are tilted. And relying on radar could give people a false sense of security thinking a tornado is passing them by because their neighborhood isn't in the path of the storm as depicted on TV. NWS says it's another reason for anyone anywhere near a tornado to take cover.