Tornado in Mississippi kills at least 23, with dozens more injured | Mississippi

At least 23 people were killed and dozens injured as a tornado and strong thunderstorms swept across Mississippi on Friday, destroying buildings and knocking out power as severe weather that produced hail the size of golf balls moved through several southern states.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency confirmed there had been 23 deaths with dozens of injuries and four people missing throughout the state. The agency said in a Twitter post that search and rescue teams from numerous local and state agencies were deployed along with personnel to assist those affected by the tornadoes.

“Unfortunately, these numbers are expected to change,” it said, referring to the death toll.

The rural towns of Silver City and Rolling Fork reported destruction as the tornado swept north-east at 70mph (113km/h) without weakening, racing towards Alabama.

“The loss will be felt in these towns forever. Please pray for God’s hand to be over all who lost family and friends”, Mississippi’s governor, Tate Reeves, tweeted.

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 unaccounted for in Sharkey, according to the newspaper.

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


Rolling Fork’s mayor, Eldridge Walker, told WLBT-TV he was unable to get out of his damaged home soon after the tornado hit because power lines were down. He said emergency responders were trying to take injured people to hospitals.

Cornel Knight told the Associated Press that he, his wife and their three-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 from every transformer that blew”.

He said the tornado struck another relative’s home across a wide corn-field from where he was. A wall in that home collapsed and trapped several people inside. As Knight spoke to AP by phone, he said he could see lights from emergency vehicles at the partly collapsed home.

The storm system was a supercell, the kind that brew the deadliest tornadoes and most damaging hail in the United States, said Walker Ashley, a meteorology professor at the University of Northern Illinois.

Meteorologists had seen a big tornado risk coming for the general region as much as a week in advance, said Ashley, who was discussing it with his colleagues as early as 17 March. The National Weather Service’s storm prediction center put out a long-range alert for the area on 19 March, he said.

Mississippi meteorologist overwhelmed on air as tornado hits – video

Tornado experts have been warning about increased risk exposure in the region because of people building more. “You mix a particularly socioeconomically vulnerable landscape with a fast-moving, long-track nocturnal tornado and disaster will happen,” Ashley said in an email.

Matt Elliott, a warning coordination meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s storm prediction centre in Norman, Oklahoma, said the severe weather was expected across several states.

The storm prediction centre said the greatest threat of tornadoes would come in portions of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Storms with damaging winds and hail were forecast from eastern Texas and south-eastern Oklahoma into parts of south-eastern Missouri and southern Illinois.

More than 49,000 customers had lost power in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee as of Friday night, according to

In Texas, a suspected tornado struck at about 5am in the south-west corner of Wise county, damaging homes and downing trees and power lines, said Cody Powell, the county’s emergency management coordinator. Powell said no injuries were reported.

The weather service had not confirmed a tornado in neighbouring Parker county, but damage to homes was also reported there, said the meteorologist Matt Stalley.

More severe storms are expected for the region on Sunday, with a Level 2 out of 5 risk of damaging winds, isolated tornadoes, and severe hail. The areas impacted will include Montgomery, Alabama; Jackson, Mississippi; and Columbus and Macon in Georgia.

With an additional 2 to 4 inches of rain predicted through Sunday, flooding is also possible, meteorologists said.

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