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FutureStarrMississippi Tornadoes Deadliest Since 2011
The National Weather Service (NWS) is a United States Government agency that issues forecasts and warnings of hazardous weather and climate conditions across the country. To do this, they operate an extensive network of national and regional centers as well as 122 local Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) responsible for creating and disseminating products specific to their region.
As the humidity of an unseasonably warm April subsided, a powerful squall line was set off by a low-level jet stream which moved into Mississippi and Alabama - setting the stage for deadly tornadoes. While some of these twisters began early in the day, others formed in late afternoon or evening.
During the outbreak, the National Weather Service recorded more than 175 tornadoes across America and killed at least 30 people in Mississippi. These tornadoes were part of a larger storm system that moved from Texas to New York and Southern Canada, resulting in 324 fatalities and over $10 billion worth of damages.
On Friday night, a devastating tornado tore through Mississippi, leaving behind a wake of devastation in its path northeast. It was believed to be the deadliest tornado to strike the state since 2011, and at least 23 people were lost in its path.
Tornadoes that hit Silver City, Mississippi (about 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of Jackson) caused massive destruction to trees and vegetation as they tore them down. Some homes were completely submerged while cars were left smashed against the ground.
As the search for survivors began, officials warned of increased danger in Sharkey County. A fifth of its residents are considered poor and live in mobile homes or other non-traditional housing, according to The New York Times.
Governor Tate Reeves, who declared a state of emergency for affected areas, shared pictures on social media of volunteers and first responders helping those injured. He noted that President Joe Biden had spoken with him about the tragedy and offered "full federal support".
Atmos Energy cut gas lines in Rolling Fork, a town 60 miles northwest of Jackson, but it remains uncertain how long the community will have a reliable water source.
As the tornado passed through, it tore down homes and destroyed the city's main building. Furthermore, it tore away trees and bent metal fences along its path.
On Saturday morning, a survey team from the National Weather Service was dispatched to assess the damage. Unfortunately, most of the homes had been badly affected.
On Friday and Saturday, the weather service reported that a series of storms that produced tornadoes in Mississippi have claimed at least 23 lives. Governor Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency and the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent teams to assist with rescue efforts.
Tornadoes were caused by a combination of factors, including air mass collisions and wind shear. This caused winds to become more erratic and rotate in different directions, creating ideal conditions for twisters to form.
Conditions were prevalent across a large area, from the western edge of the state to its center and even into Alabama. These storms were caused by a warm, humid air mass that moved north from the Gulf of Mexico along with an accelerating current of air known as the low-level jet stream.
There were reports of several tornadoes in the southern parts of the state, particularly Jackson County and Clarke County. In Clarke County, a tornado that left behind a path nearly 68 miles long struck Bassfield before another EF-3 hit Soso, Moss and Heidelburg nearby.
On April 5, 1936, Tupelo experienced one of Mississippi's deadliest tornadoes when a storm system unleashed three tornadoes that left more than 200 people dead and destroyed buildings throughout the city and its surrounding communities. This event is remembered as being "the largest tornado in American history" according to the National Weather Service that year.
It was a tragic event that also set the stage for an epic fire that spread across the city hours later, killing 203 people. Had proper sheltering and evacuation protocols been in place, this tragedy could have been avoided.
This disaster, which lasted more than a day, marked the first time in America that the tornado warning system failed. It demonstrated how important it is to have adequate shelters in places like commercial and industrial facilities.
Though the cause of these tornadoes remains uncertain, scientists believe strong winds at night played a role. Studies have indicated that nighttime tornadoes tend to kill twice as many people than those that occur during the daytime. Furthermore, according to the National Weather Service, people may have difficulty recognizing when such storms will strike, making it especially important for everyone to take precautions and stay safe.
Hail is another form of severe weather that can be particularly hazardous during the spring and summer months. It forms when a thunderstorm updraft lifts a raindrop above freezing in the atmosphere, causing it to condense super-cooled water or water vapor into a hailstone.
Hail is an often-present element in severe weather events across Mississippi, and it's also one of the most deadly forms. Since 2011, hail has claimed more lives in Mississippi than any other form of precipitation combined.
On Friday night, a devastating hailstorm tore through rural southern Mississippi, taking at least 25 lives and leaving dozens injured. The storm had its brunt in Rolling Fork, Mississippi's small Delta town; it destroyed entire blocks in its path of destruction that lasted more than an hour.
Shelters were set up for those displaced by the tornado, including a National Guard armory in Rolling Fork, a multipurpose building in Humphreys County and an American Red Cross shelter in Greenville. The shelter in Rolling Fork will feature a mobile hospital and support staff while the Red Cross will provide 1,000 meals to those who require them.
Tornadoes and damaging winds are two types of severe weather that can cause widespread destruction in Mississippi at any time of year. Strong gusts of wind can knock down trees, cause significant structural damage and even result in power outages.
Wind damage tends to be more prevalent during spring and summer, but can strike at any time of the year. A particularly destructive wind event in Greenville in mid October 2012 caused 80 to 90 mph winds that uprooted trees and caused extensive property damage.
Severe weather can be a real danger for everyone in Mississippi, particularly those living on the coast. Tornadoes are the most frequent form of severe weather here but hurricanes, lightning and torrential downpours also exist. The primary severe weather season runs from March through May with secondary outbreaks occurring in November and December. Tornadoes can strike at any time of day and prove deadly if left unchecked.
Friday night's tornadoes that devastated Mississippi and Alabama were the deadliest since 2011 when a "super outbreak" of twisters tore through several states. That year, 31 people perished from tornadoes within Mississippi state boundaries, according to the National Weather Service.
Storms across the Deep South caused a path of destruction across their path, leaving behind a trail of destruction in their wake - from homes and trees to cars and homes. But this latest outbreak proved far more deadly, with at least 25 deaths reported across four counties on Saturday alone, authorities reported.
Residents are still assessing the damage, and the weather service has sent crews to survey the wreckage. Some reports are expected out by late Saturday night; however, more detailed information may take a few days.
On Monday afternoon, a tornado devastated Silver City, Mississippi (60 miles northeast of Jackson), and Rolling Fork (40 miles east of the capital). As first responders have been going door to door checking on residents to determine what happened, some have been injured.
Tracy Harden, owner of Chuck's Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, told USA TODAY her staff and she were all safely hidden inside its walk-in refrigerator when the tornado hit. Three dogs at the shelter also made it out unscathed, she added.
Storms that hit the area spawned several tornadoes, including an EF-3 which struck Jefferson Davis County and another EF-4 which touched down in Clarke County and killed a man trying to save his dog. Other damage was reported in Bassfield, Soso and Moss towns.
Tornadoes destroyed numerous mobile homes, leaving debris littering the roads. Fires broke out in several of these residences as well. Furthermore, traffic was disrupted and some bridges were damaged or destroyed due to this storm.
Many of the buildings that survived were well-built and securely attached to their foundations. Nonetheless, the tornado still threw a car about 50 yards (46 meters) away, reduced two other homes to their block foundations, destroyed a cinder block garage, and caused extensive tree damage.
Many who live in the area experienced a terrifying moment on Thursday when tornado season arrived in full swing. Yet that shouldn't make residents complacent about potential risks, Parker warned. He expressed particular concern for those living in mobile homes.