Tornado damage: South reels from deadly tornadoes; 2-year-old among the 25 dead in Mississippi
ROLLING ROCK, Miss — Communities across the southern United States woke shattered Monday morning to a deadly tornado outbreak and powerful thunderstorms.
At least 27 tornadoes were reported over the weekend in five states — Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. Officials said at least 25 people have died in Mississippi, where a long-track cyclone left a trail of destruction for about 59 miles. There has been at least one storm-related death in Alabama, where officials said a man succumbed to his injuries after he was rescued by first responders.
President Joe Biden approved disaster relief for Mississippi on Sunday.
death and damage
The severe tornado that swept through Rolling Fork, Mississippi late Friday has been assigned a rating of EF-4, a classification that marks it as a rare and powerful storm.
The National Weather Service office in Jackson, Mississippi, said the preliminary assessment comes as staff are still gathering information about the storm.
The EF or Enhanced Fujita scale assigns tornadoes a number from zero to five based on damage, with five being the most catastrophic. According to the Storm Prediction Center, EF-4 tornadoes make up only 1% of all tornadoes. Historically, the vast majority of twisters have been rated EF-0 or EF-1.
Early data showed the tornado was 59 miles down over a period of about 70 minutes. Its maximum width was about three-quarters of a mile, or about 4,000 feet.
The tornado’s maximum wind gust was recorded at 170 miles per hour.
Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker said the rescue effort is “quite near completion” and authorities believe everyone has been held accountable. He said his town of about 1,800 people was almost wiped off the map.
“The community has been destroyed. And now we have to put the pieces back together,” Walker said on ABC’s Good Morning America.
Walker is also the city’s undertaker and said some of the 20 people killed in the tornado that hit his city were friends.
Rolling Rock resident Erwin Macon stood outside his completely decimated home with only one suitcase, which he said contained all the belongings he had left. Macon told ABC News that he was protected from flying debris during the tornado by a carpet that came out of nowhere and landed on him.
Macon said he was just grateful to be alive.
“It can all be replaced,” he said of his home. “I’ll be fine.”
A separate Mississippi tornado cut a 28.6-mile swath of destruction through Carroll and Montgomery counties, killing three people and causing extensive damage in the towns of Blackhawk and Winona. The half-mile wide twister, tentatively rated EF-3 by the National Weather Service, generated winds of up to 155 miles per hour and was on the ground for more than 25 minutes.
At least four other tornadoes, all measuring EF-1 and having wind speeds of 90 to 110 miles per hour, also made landfall in Mississippi.
In Silver City, where an EF-4 tornado hit Friday night, a 2-year-old girl is one of three residents killed, her family and the Humphreys County Coroner told ABC News on Sunday. Several other residents remain in critical condition, the coroner said.
The tornadoes that hit Mississippi were among 10 vortices that developed Friday, including a pair of EF-2 funnel clouds in Alabama that killed one person in Hartselle, Morgan County.
Another EF-2 Twister struck near Fayetteville, Tenn., spinning over four miles on the ground in just six minutes, officials said. The tornado damaged the roofs of several homes and businesses, downed trees and power poles, destroyed a large shed and ripped off the reinforced roof of the horse boxes at the local county fair. The tornado also rolled a large horse trailer about 80 meters and picked up and knocked several cars to the ground, officials said.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, who filed the disaster declaration, said Saturday that “the extent of the damage and casualties is evident everywhere today.”
“Homes, businesses… entire communities. Respond, recover, rebuild together,” he said on Twitter. “That’s the order.”
Criswell said that while tornado warnings were activated and sirens in some cities alerted residents of the impending disaster, not everyone received or heeded the warnings.
“In some of these communities, they are certainly among the poorest communities in the state. And we know we have to put the full force of the federal family there to help them,” Criswell said.
In an interview with Criswell in This Week, Raddatz noted that up to 35% of Mississippi residents in the area where the massive tornado struck live below the poverty line and may not have cellphones to get alerts.
“I think it’s something that we need to…constantly look at what we can do to better inform people,” Criswell said. “We know there are sirens. I know some sirens went off. I don’t have an accurate picture of where people started going fast, especially when there are those nighttime tornadoes that happen while people are sleeping.”
The latest forecast
The National Weather Service’s latest forecast shows the same storm system will linger in the southeast Monday with damaging winds, large hail and an isolated tornado threat. Parts of South Georgia and South Carolina will hit the mark, including the cities of Columbus, Savannah and Charleston. Flood warnings and warnings have been issued for areas in Alabama and Georgia.
A tornado watch for central Georgia, including the city of Macon, remains in effect through 11 a.m. ET Monday. In addition, a flood watch and flash flood warning was issued for parts of Alabama and Georgia where up to 7 inches of rain has already fallen.
A new storm will hit the west coast Monday night, bringing heavy rain and winds along the coast and heavy snow in the mountains. Heavy rain is expected to hit the San Francisco Bay Area Tuesday morning, but gusty winds will begin Monday. Parts of Northern California could see local rainfall amounts of 2 to 5 inches.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for parts of the Sierra Nevada mountains of northern California, where localized snowfalls of 2 to 4 feet are possible in the coming days.
This new storm system is expected to sweep across the country, bringing more severe weather to Texas and Oklahoma on Thursday. Areas from Texas to Wisconsin could see a major severe weather outbreak Friday, with threats of tornadoes, damaging winds and huge hail.
Meanwhile, a late-season winter storm could hit areas farther north, from the Dakotas to Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
ABC-owned television stations contributed to this report.
https://6abc.com/tornado-damage-mississippi-tornadoes-rolling-fork-ms-ef-4/13026854/ Tornado damage: South reels from deadly tornadoes; 2-year-old among the 25 dead in Mississippi