Mississippi tornadoes kill 23, injure dozens overnight

The National Weather Service issued an alert as the storm hit that didn’t mince words: “To protect your life, COVER YOURSELF NOW!”

“You are in a life-threatening situation,” he warned. “Flying debris can be deadly to those caught homeless. Mobile homes will be destroyed. Extensive damage to homes, businesses and vehicles is likely and complete destruction is possible. »

Cornel Knight told The Associated Press that he, his wife and their 3-year-old daughter were at a relative’s home in Rolling Fork when the tornado struck. He said the sky was dark but “you could see the direction of each exploding transformer”.

He said it was “eerily quiet” when it happened. Knight said he watched from a doorway until the tornado was, he estimated, less than a mile away. Then he told everyone in the house to hide in a hallway. He said the tornado hit another relative’s house across a vast cornfield from where he was standing. A wall of this house collapsed and trapped several people inside. As Knight spoke to AP by phone, he said he could see emergency vehicle lights in the partially collapsed house.

Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker told WLBT-TV he was unable to get out of his damaged home shortly after the tornado because power lines were down. He said rescuers were trying to take the injured to hospitals. He did not immediately know how many people had been injured.

A former Rolling Fork mayor, Fred Miller, told the TV station that a tornado blew out the windows at the back of his house.

Storm chaser Reed Timmer posted on Twitter that Rolling Fork was in immediate need of emergency personnel and was heading with injured city residents to a hospital in Vicksburg.

Sharkey-Issaquena Community Hospital on the west side of Rolling Fork was damaged, WAPT reported.

The Sharkey County Sheriff’s Office in Rolling Fork reported gas leaks and people trapped in piles of rubble, according to the Vicksburg News. Some law enforcement units were missing in Sharkey, according to the newspaper.

Rolling Fork and its surroundings are filled with vast expanses of cotton, corn and soybean fields and catfish breeding ponds. More than half a dozen shelters have been opened across the state by emergency officials.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said in a Twitter post late Friday that search and rescue teams were active and authorities were dispatching more ambulances and emergency supplies to those affected.

“Many in MS Delta need your prayers and God’s protection tonight,” the post said. “Watch the weather reports and stay safe all night, Mississippi!”

It was a supercell, the type of nasty storms that brew the deadliest tornado and most devastating hail in the United States, said Walker Ashley, professor of meteorology at Northern Illinois University . Plus, it’s a wet night that’s “the worst kind,” he said.

Meteorologists saw a big tornado risk coming for the general region, not the specific area, up to a week in advance, said Ashley, who was discussing it with colleagues as early as March 17. The National Weather Service’s storm prediction center issued a long-range warning for the region on March 19, he said.

Tornado experts like Ashley have warned of increased hazard exposure in the area due to people building more.

“You mix a particularly socio-economically vulnerable landscape with a fast, long-lasting nighttime tornado, and disaster will strike,” Ashley said in an email.

Earlier Friday, a car was swept away and two passengers drowned in southwestern Missouri during torrential rains that were part of a severe weather system. Authorities said six young adults were in the vehicle which was swept away as the car attempted to cross a bridge over a flooded creek in the town of Grovespring.

Four of the six came out of the water. The body of Devon Holt, 20, of Grovespring, was found at 3:30 a.m., and the body of Alexander Roman-Ranelli, 19, of Springfield, was found about six hours later, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt . said Thomas Young.

The driver told authorities the rain made it difficult to see that water from a creek had covered the bridge, Young said.

Meanwhile, the search continued in another southwestern Missouri county for a woman who went missing after a small river flash flooded that swept a car off the road. The Logan Rogersville Fire Protection District said there was no sign of the woman. Two other people in the car were rescued. Crews planned to use boats and have searchers walk along the shore.

When a woman’s SUV was swept away by floodwaters on Friday morning near Granby, Mo., Layton Hoyer fought his way through the icy waters to save her.

Parts of southern Missouri saw nearly 3 inches (8 centimeters) of rain Thursday night and Friday morning as severe weather hit other areas. A suspected tornado touched down early Friday in North Texas.

Matt Elliott, meteorologist responsible for coordinating warnings at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said severe weather was expected in several states.

The Storm Prediction Center warned that the greatest tornado threat would come to parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Storms with damaging winds and hail were expected from eastern Texas and southeast Oklahoma into parts of southeast Missouri and southern Illinois.

More than 49,000 customers had lost power in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee by Friday night, according to poweroutage.us.

In Texas, a suspected tornado struck around 5 a.m. in the southwest corner of Wise County, damaging homes and downing trees and power lines, said county emergency management coordinator Cody Powell. Powell said no injuries were reported.

The Weather Service did not confirm a tornado, but damage to homes was also reported in nearby Parker County, meteorologist Matt Stalley said.


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