This radar image captured shortly before 10 p.m. CDT on Sunday, May 2, 2021 shows a thunderstorm warned by a tornado towards Tupelo, Mississippi. (AccuWeather)
Nearly 100,000 Mississippi residents suffered a tornado emergency Sunday night, including the city of Tupelo, as a large and destructive tornado ravaged the area.
Shortly before 10 p.m. CDT, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a terrible warning to the city of Tupelo, calling the situation particularly dangerous and life-threatening as a confirmed tornado charged towards the city.
A tornado emergency can be triggered when a large, destructive tornado has been on the ground for an extended period of time and is approaching a populated area.
“At 952 PM CDT, a confirmed large and destructive tornado was observed over Tupelo, moving northeast at 45 mph. TORNADO EMERGENCY for Tupelo. THIS IS A EXCITINGLY DANGEROUS SITUATION. COVERED NOW, ”the NWS warning said.
Local law enforcement has reported extensive residential damage around the Elvis Presley Museum area in Tupelo, as well as downed trees and power lines. Tupelo is the birthplace of Elvis Presley.
Around the city’s Route 151 area, local media reported that a roof had been ripped off from an apartment building.
The Tupelo city mayor’s office released a statement on Facebook on Sunday evening, saying damage had been reported across the city.
“Emergency crews are currently assessing the degree of damage. Please do not go out and drive. It is dangerous – there are reports that power lines are down on the roads. We will keep you posted as soon as we know. the extent of the damage. Prayers for all to be safe, and please keep our crews and first responders in your prayers as well, “the statement said.
Forecasters noticed a “debris ball” signature on the radar as the storm charged towards Tupelo, indicating that debris was being picked up by a strong tornado and rising high in the atmosphere.
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The timing of the tornado added to the gravity of the situation. At night, tornadoes are extremely difficult to see.
“In parts of the south-central and southeastern United States, nighttime tornadoes are more common than in any other part of the country,” said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Mike Doll.
Screenshots of a Mississippi Department of Transportation camera along Interstate 22 to Veterans Memorial Bridge showed what appeared to be a large tornado lit only by lightning, or perhaps a power flash.
Tupelo wasn’t the only place in Mississippi to experience tornadoes on Sunday, with the NWS Storm Prediction Center reporting a preliminary total of about a dozen tornadoes in the state, as well as a tornado in Louisiana.
NWS investigation teams will examine the extent and severity of the damage to determine the exact force, width and path length of each of the tornadoes in the coming days.
In the meantime, forecasters are urging residents to stay abreast of weather conditions this week as more severe weather cycles are expected in parts of the southern United States.
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