A powerful tornado tore through a rural area of the Mississippi Delta Friday night, causing injuries, extensive damage and downed power lines as severe weather brought golf ball-sized hail through several southern states.
The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado touched down about 60 miles northeast of Jackson, Mississippi. The rural towns of Silver City and Rolling Fork were reporting destruction as the tornado continued into the night through towns including Chula and Winona.
A tornado touched down in Silver City, MS in Humphreys County. Highway 49W is congested at this time with emergency crews. Use an alternate route if possible. pic.twitter.com/npfYxnMGSN
— MHP Greenwood (@MHPTroopD) March 25, 2023
Colonel 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 hit. He said the sky was dark but “you could see the direction from every transformer that blew up.”
He said it was “terribly quiet” as it happened. Knight said he watched from a doorway until the tornado struck, he estimated, less than a mile away. Then asked everyone in the house to cover in a hallway. He said the tornado hit another relative’s home in a vast cornfield from where he was. A wall of the house collapsed and several people were trapped inside. As Knight spoke to the AP by phone, he said he could see lights from emergency vehicles at the partially collapsed home.
9:55 PM: The tornado that passed through Winona and caused damage is now moving northeast toward MS Highway 9 through Webster County near Bellefontaine. Take shelter now! https://t.co/6BhawxXFd8
— NWS Jackson MS (@NWSJacksonMS) March 25, 2023
Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker told WLBT-TV he was unable to get out of his damaged home immediately after the tornado hit because power lines were down. He said emergency workers are trying to take the injured to hospital. He did not immediately know how many were injured.
A former mayor of Rolling Fork, Fred Miller, told the television station that a tornado blew out the back windows of his home.
Storm chaser Reed Timmer posted on Twitter that Rolling Fork needed emergency personnel and was on his way to a Vicksburg hospital with injured city residents.
Sharkey-Issaqueña Community Hospital on the west side of Rolling Fork was damaged, WAPT said.
The Sharkey County Sheriff’s Office in Rolling Fork reported gas leaks and people trapped in piles of rubble, according to the Vicksburg News. According to the newspaper, some law enforcement units were unaccounted for in Sharkey.
Rolling Fork and the surrounding area have extensive expanses of cotton, corn and soybean fields and catfish farming ponds. Emergency officials opened more than a half-dozen shelters in the state.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said in a Twitter post Friday night that search and rescue teams were active and officials were sending more ambulances and emergency resources to victims.
“Many in MS Delta need your prayers and God’s protection tonight,” the post said. “Watch the weather report and stay alert all night, Mississippi!”
Earlier Friday, a car overturned and two passengers drowned in southwest Missouri during heavy rains that were part of a severe weather system. Authorities said six young men were swept away in the car while trying 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 recovered about six hours later, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Dr. Thomas Young.
The driver told authorities the rain made it difficult to see that a creek covered the bridge, Young said.
Meanwhile, the search continues in another southwest Missouri county for a woman who went missing after a car washed off the road after flash flooding from a small river. The Logan Rogersville Fire Protection District said there was no sign of the woman. Two other occupants of the vehicle were rescued. Crews planned to use boats and have searchers walk along the river.
When a woman’s SUV was swept away by floodwaters Friday morning near Granby, Missouri, Layton Hoyer waded through ice-cold water to rescue her.
Parts of southern Missouri received nearly 3 inches of rain Thursday night and into Friday morning as severe weather battered other areas. A suspected tornado touched down in North Texas early Friday morning.
Severe weather was expected in several states, said Matt Elliott, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
The Storm Prediction Center warned that the greatest threat of tornadoes could come over parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Storms with damaging winds and hail were forecast from eastern Texas and southeastern Oklahoma to parts of southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois.
More than 49,000 customers lost power in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee as of Friday night, according to poweroutages.us.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards warned of a possible tornado reaching the state overnight and urged residents to be prepared for severe weather, including damaging winds and hail. According to the National Weather Service, the risk of personal vulnerability increases with severe overnight weather because residents are less likely to receive warnings because they are asleep and tornadoes are more difficult to spot.
In Texas, a suspected tornado touched down in the southwest corner of Wise County at 5 a.m., damaging homes and downing trees and power lines, said Cody Powell, the county’s emergency management coordinator. Powell said no injuries were reported.
Meteorologist Matt Staley said the weather service has not confirmed a tornado, but damage to homes was also reported in neighboring Parker County.