AccuWeather is wrapping up live coverage of the deadly tornadoes that decimated parts of western Mississippi, including the town of Rolling Fork. AccuWeather meteorologists are now warning that the storm focus will shift to the Northeast throughout Saturday. For additional coverage, stream AccuWeather NOW anytime on our website. Stay up to date on the latest weather in your area by downloading the AccuWeather mobile app and visiting AccuWeather.com. And keep an eye on weather news and forecasts by following AccuWeather on:
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The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency updated constituents on response efforts Saturday after deadly tornadoes swept through the state on Friday evening. As of Saturday morning, the agency confirmed 23 deaths, with dozens injured and four people missing. A number of shelters have opened up for displaced residents, including the National Guard armory in Rolling Fork, a multipurpose building in Humphreys County, and an American Red Cross shelter in Greenville. The Rolling Fork shelter will have a mobile hospital and support staff, while the Red Cross is offering 1,000 meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner for those in need.
In Rolling Fork, the site of significant destruction Friday, several Mississippi Department of Transportation employees suffered lost or damaged homes, with some of those with damaged homes reporting during the overnight hours “to keep the area roads clear and safe.” Multiple search and rescue teams have been working in Rolling Fork, as well as Amory and Monroe County, and a FEMA team is en route to assist the state. “Life safety is the number one priority and damage assessments will begin soon,” an agency spokesperson said.
More severe weather threats are in store for this weekend, as the storm that ravaged parts of the South Friday evening will travel northeastward to the Great Lakes region Saturday. A zone of strong winds will develop across the region, with gusts ranging from 40-60 mph forecast as far north as southeastern Wisconsin, as far south as northern Georgia, and as far east as central Pennsylvania and central New York. AccuWeather StormMax™ wind gusts may reach hurricane force (75 mph) over higher elevations of the Appalachians and part of the Ohio Valley.
Drenching rainfall is also in store for Saturday, with downpours lasting anywhere from a few hours to the entire day. Flood risks especially apply in the Ozark Mountain region, along with the western slopes of the Appalachians. Flooding severity will range from flash flooding or urban areas and small streams, to significant rises on some of the rivers in the region. Severe thunderstorms are forecast for places such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Charleston, West Virginia.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said on Twitter Saturday morning that he had finished a briefing with the state’s disaster response team. Declaring the deadly tornado damage as a “tragedy,” Reeves said he was heading to Sharkey County to visit with storm victims. “We are blessed with brave, capable responders and loving neighbors. Please continue to pray,” Reeves said.
Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said that she had been in touch with Reeves about how FEMA can help the affected communities. “Our thoughts are with the people of Mississippi who are dealing with this terrible trauma,” Criswell said.
The National Weather Service office in Jackson, Mississippi, is sending out three separate survey teams to examine the storm damage and determine ratings for Friday evening’s tornadoes. The NWS said on Saturday that teams are headed to Sharkey County, Humphreys County and Holmes/Montgomery counties. Sharkey and Humphreys counties are located in the western part of the state, while Holmes and Montgomery are situated in central Mississippi, north of Jackson.
The NWS said its goal was to assess as much damage as possible on Saturday, but noted that the surveys could take a couple of days to complete, likely due to the extensive damage. “Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with everyone affected by the terrible storms yesterday,” the NWS office posted on Twitter, urging residents to stay safe.
A tornado touching down in an area is one of the world’s most frightening weather threats, but the impacts after ferocious winds calm down can be just as dangerous. One study showed that 50% of tornado-related injuries occur after the tornado, taking place during rescue attempts, cleanup and other post-twister activities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study pointed out that common post-tornado injuries included stepping on nails or being hit by falling or heavy objects. After a tornado hits an area, residents should keep the following tips in mind:
•Check for injuries: After the tornado passes, quickly ensure everyone in your home or shelter is OK. If a person is hurt, don’t try to move them, as this may worsen the severity of the injury.
•Stay informed about severe weather: One tornado passing may just be the start of a severe weather outbreak, making following along with news crucial. The free AccuWeather app can help locals stay alert on any active tornado watches and warnings in the area.
•Stay in touch with loved ones: If family and close friends aren’t in the same location during and after a tornado, try to reach out to let them know you and those with you are okay. Since phone lines may be down or busy after a disaster, Ready.gov recommends saving phone calls for emergencies and instead sending text messages or posting to social media.
•Check for hazards and inspect for damage: Assessing any impacts to property as a result of the tornado is important, as just because a home or business appears alright does not mean it is safe to occupy. Damage to the home can post potential structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards.
The first crack of daylight in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, after Friday’s deadly and violent tornado gave a new perspective into the sheer amount of destruction in the area. One local parking lot resembled a junkyard, with destroyed vehicles strewn about alongside downed trees and other debris. What were once homes have turned into debris fields after the tornado laid waste to the town of just under 1,800 residents. Buildings that survived the chaos were severely damaged, surrounded by debris and flipped-over vehicles.
Daylight reveals massive debris and damage to the town of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, on the morning of March 25.
The residents of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, face a long road to recovery after the widespread devastation of Friday evening’s deadly tornado. Families were out on the streets in the aftermath of the tornado, desperately searching for missing loved ones. AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell spoke with Reginald Bell, who dropped off his 9-month-old daughter to stay with relatives Friday evening. The 9-month-old survived the storm, and Bell is now continuing the search for other family members. “Somehow, they got out of the debris,” Bell said. Neighbors and storm chasers on the scene drove injured locals to hospitals, and other responders went door to door offering assistance. Wadell noted that the emergency response has been challenging due to blocked roads, the sheer amount of debris in the area, as well as numerous downed trees and power lines providing obstacles.
Families are looking for missing relatives after a devastating tornado hit Rolling Fork, Mississippi, on March 24.
For the weary residents of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, especially those displaced after a violent tornado demolished local homes, a shelter has been opened up in the area. A crisis shelter opened Saturday morning in Rolling Fork at an old National Guard armory on U.S. Route 61. A reporter with WAPT News stated that cots, toiletries and water will be provided at the shelter, and that a medical station is set up outside the shelter.
Debris covers a damaged structure in Rolling Fork, Miss,. on Saturday, March 25, 2023. Powerful tornadoes tore through the Deep South on Friday night, killing several people in Mississippi, obliterating dozens of buildings. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)
The western Mississippi counties that had to deal with tornado destruction Friday evening still had the majority of residents without power Saturday morning. In Sharkey County, where at least 13 deaths were recorded in Rolling Fork, 1,834 of a total of 1,934 tracked customers were out of power at 6:30 a.m. CDT, according to PowerOutage.US. That is nearly 95% of all tracked customers in the county. Neighboring Humphreys County, where at least three were killed, had over 82% of customers without power Saturday morning. Other Mississippi counties left in near-complete darkness as of Saturday were neighboring Carroll (73.77% of customers without power) and Montgomery (83.71%) in the central part of the state. Mississippi as a whole had 16,139 outages, trailing Tennessee (61,350 outages) and Alabama (20,418). Tennessee’s outages were concentrated in the southeast corner of the state, including over 10,000 outages in Hamilton County.
The death toll kept rising into Saturday morning after a devastating tornado struck the western Mississippi town of Rolling Fork Friday evening. Responders helping with tornado cleanup, including those aiding in the clearing of trees, were forced to work by spotlight in the pitch dark. “Houses [were] completely demolished, businesses demolished … pretty much most of the town is unrecognizable right now,” Baeley Williams, one of the responders in Rolling Fork, told AccuWeather. As of Saturday morning, at least 13 deaths were recorded in Sharkey County, home to Rolling Fork, CNN reported. Three others were killed and at least two were in critical condition in neighboring Humphreys County. The tornado was moving at 50 mph when it moved over Sharkey County just after 8 p.m. CDT, the National Weather Service reported. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said Saturday that a total of 23 have been confirmed dead from Friday's tornadoes, with four still missing.
A tornado ripped apart homes and businesses in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, and surrounding communities on the night of March 24.
With at least isolated severe weather remaining in the forecast today, it is important to understand and prepare for the risks that are inbound. These are five tips that can help you and your family prepare in advance:
• Shelter safety: What to look for: It is important to make sure the storm shelter is safe and provides an escape if the door is blocked by potential debris.
• Access to shelter and supplies: Having a storm shelter that cannot be accessed effectively defeats the purpose of having one at all. Shelters should be as easily accessible as possible.
• Security and restoration planning: If doors and windows are shattered and missing, securing the property quickly is essential. Making sure the property is structurally sound and having a repair company in mind should be planned before the severe weather.
• Insurance and financial protection: Consumers should look at the types of disasters their area may be prone to, to determine if they have the proper coverage in place.
• Protecting irreplaceable property with sentimental value: Some items may never be able to be replaced after a disaster. For these items, it is a good idea to take preventative measures to protect personal possessions that hold sentimental value.
As residents in Mississippi get a first look at the major tornado damage, the extreme storms have now led to at least 21 fatalities in the Magnolia State. Much of the state's worst weather was spawned from a single storm, which carved a track northeastward across Mississippi and Alabama.
As of early Saturday morning, 13 of the fatalities were reported in Sharkey County, according to county coroner Angelia Eason. Rolling Fork, a small town within the county, took a direct hit from the tornado as it quickly moved through the area. Elsewhere, at least three were killed in Carroll and Humphreys Counties, with two in Monroe County.
While all severe weather outbreaks could be dangerous in some way or another, the “Particularly Dangerous Situation”(PDS) is reserved for extreme circumstances. In the event of a tornado watch with the PDS wording, long-lived, intense tornadoes are likely, according to the Storm Prediction Center (SPC). The wording may also be used in severe thunderstorm watches for widespread significant weather events such as derechos. “PDS watches are issued, when in the opinion of the forecaster, the likelihood of significant events is boosted by very volatile atmospheric conditions,” according to the SPC. “Usually this decision is based on a number of atmospheric clues and parameters, so the decision to issue a PDS watch is subject with no hard criteria.”
Tornado warnings may also include the PDS wording, when a strong, destructive tornado is ongoing. For severe thunderstorm warnings, the wording is occasionally used when especially large hail or destructive wind gusts are expected.
AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell has been on the road Friday, covering severe threats in the South and warning that more destructive storms may be on the way. Severe weather already made its way to Texas Friday morning, as a EF1 strength tornado was confirmed in Poolville, Texas, roughly 35 miles northwest of Fort Worth. The tornado, which had peak winds of 100 mph, downed a bevy of trees in the area, flipped over a camper and ripped a steeple off of a local church.
In the wake of an intense tornado that struck Silver City, Mississippi, Friday night, the Sharkey County coroner has reported at least 7 fatalities in the county as a result of the storm, according to a press release. The storm responsible for the twister carved a destructive path across the Magnolia State, with tornado emergencies issued on 4 separate occasions.
In Silver City, initial reports conveyed the extreme nature of the tornado damage. Photos from the Mississippi Highway Patrol showed a substantial amount of debris, along with a large emergency response in the area.
Four separate tornado emergencies were issued Friday night between 8 and 10:50 p.m. CDT amid a dangerous severe weather outbreak. The Mississippi towns of Belzoni and Rolling Fork; Tchula, Sidon and North Carrollton; Winona, Eudora and Vaiden; Amory, Aberdeen and Smithville, were all issued separate tornado emergencies by the National Weather Service in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth alerts of their kind for 2023. The agency warned of a “life-threatening” situation for each alert and urged folks to seek shelter.
The damage in Rolling Fork garnered the most attention as storm chasers documented a large wedge tornado in the area and photos of storm damage surfaced over social media. Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer was near Rolling Fork when the tornado struck and joined efforts to search for the injured.
A tornado emergency is in effect for Monroe County, Mississippi, where a large and destructive tornado is on the ground, according to the National Weather Service. As of 10:48 p.m. CDT, the tornado was located near New Wren, or roughly 20 miles south-southeast of Tupelo. "This is a particularly dangerous situation. Take cover now!" The warning stated.
Locations in the path of this tornado include Amory and Hatley, Mississippi.
Severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings were in effect for a swath of northeast Mississippi and northwest Alabama, just north of Tupelo, as a severe weather outbreak remains underway across the Southeast. As of 10:20 p.m. CDT, an intense rotating storm was located near Tishomingo, Mississippi, quickly moving northeastward toward the Alabama border. While a tornado had not been confirmed, one could touch down at any time. "Tornadoes are extremely difficult to see and confirm at night. Do not wait to see or hear the tornado. Take cover now!" the tornado warning stated.
Additionally, damaging straight-line wind gusts will also be possible as this storm approaches. Large, golf ball sized hail was also ongoing according to the National Weather Service, which is enough to cause damage to windows and vehicles.
Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer was at the center of the destruction in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, capturing an extensive damage path while walking in extreme wind gusts and heavy rain. A large amount of debris was thrown around, while people and animals alike scrambled after a tornado touched down in the town. In the video, Timmer asks another person if a nearby car was empty, checking cars for possible victims. Earlier, Timmer reported heading to a nearby hospital in Vicksburg, Mississippi, with injured residents of Rolling Fork.
The National Weather Service in Jackson, Mississippi, confirmed a tornado was on the ground and moving across Interstate 55 into the city of Winona in Montgomery County in the central part of the state. The twister was confirmed around 9:30 p.m. CT. Tornadoes were also confirmed in Silver City and Rolling Fork, trapping and injuring multiple people. It was not immediately clear whether there were any serious injuries.
After a tornado touched down in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, a second dangerous tornado struck to the northeast Friday evening, the National Weather Service confirmed, causing damage in the towns of Silver City and Belzoni. In Silver City, 30 miles northeast of Rolling Fork, homes were seen destroyed, and more damage was reported 7 miles up the road in Belzoni.
Outages have taken a major hit as well, with PowerOutage.US reporting over 94% of customers in Sharkey County without service, along with over 57% of customers without power in neighboring Humphreys County.
A second tornado emergency was issued in Mississippi on Friday night as a large and dangerous tornado continued to trek in western Mississippi. As of 8:41 p.m. CDT the tornado was located near Belzoni, Mississippi, and moving northeast at 45 mph, according to the National Weather Service -- which described it as a "deadly tornado." Locations the tornado will be near include Thorton, Tchula, Howard, Seven Pines, Black Hawk, Coila, Emory, Cruger and Carrollton, Mississippi. "A large, extremely deadly tornado is on the ground. To protect your life, take cover now!" the emergency declared.
The destructive tornado that touched down in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, Friday evening has left an unknown number of people trapped, the National Weather Service reported via an Amateur Radio (AR) report. The report from the area noted at least one injury was suffered in Rolling Fork, with individuals trapped in a Family Dollar store near the town. Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer said that emergency crews have begun to respond for search and rescue.
A tornado emergency was issued for Rolling Fork and Anguilla, Mississippi, on Friday evening for a large and destructive tornado. The tornado was located over Rolling Fork and moving northeast at 50 mph, according to the National Weather Service. "You are in a life-threatening situation ... This is a particularly dangerous situation. Take cover now!" stated the tornado emergency alert. Rolling Fork is located about 60 miles northwest of Jackson, Mississippi. A tornado emergency is the highest level of severity for a tornado-related alert issued by the National Weather Service.
Fast-moving storms are in store for several states into the evening hours, with Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer covering the action in the northern Louisiana city of Ruston Friday afternoon. Timmer said that storms that will begin in central Louisiana are forecast to move to the northeast at 50-60 mph, and that low-level wind shear adds to the tornado-driven threats. Footage taken from Mayflower, Arkansas, showed that perilous conditions were already in place for Arkansas motorists. “All ingredients are in place for an outbreak of tornadoes across central, northern Louisiana, up into eastern Arkansas and a large swath of central, northern Mississippi,” Timmer said. Timmer also noted that it will be “very important” to stay tuned to local severe weather watches and warnings, and families should have an effective safety plan in case of danger.
Reed Timmer gives an update from Ruston, Louisiana, where an ongoing severe weather threat is taking place with a potential tornado outbreak.
A tornado watch has been issued for a portion of the southern United States as severe weather continues to unfold across the region. The watch includes portions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Major cities under the tornado watch include Monroe, Louisiana; Jackson and Oxford, Mississippi; and Memphis and Jackson, Tennessee. The watch remains in effect until midnight CDT. Five tornado warnings have been issued so far on Friday, including one just south of Little Rock during the evening rush hour.
Multiple tornado warnings have been issued across Arkansas on Friday evening as rush hour begins to unfold across the state. At 5 p.m. CDT, two tornado warnings were in effect for portions of Arkansas that included Interstate 30, with one of the warnings extending to Bryant, Arkansas, located about 15 miles southwest of Little Rock. Four tornado warnings have been issued in Arkansas since a tornado watch was issued for the southeastern part of the state at 1:30 p.m. CDT. The watch remains in effect until 7 p.m. CDT.
The evening commute is underway in Bryant, Arkansas, during a tornado warning on Mar. 24, 2023. (ARDOT)
A flood watch is in effect on Friday for a large swath of the country spanning from Arkansas to West Virginia. As of 4:30 p.m. CDT on Friday, the flood watch spans eight states and includes a population of over 15,499,000 people, according to Iowa Environment Mesonet. As of Friday afternoon, several flood warnings and flash flood warnings have also been issued across Oklahoma and Arkansas as heavy rain moves into the region. Widespread flooding can ensue as repeated downpours will target a large swath of the nation.
Flash flood warnings (light green) and areal flood watches stretched from Oklahoma to West Virginia on Friday evening.
The National Weather Service confirmed two tornadoes had impacted Parker and Wise County, Texas, on Friday. The first tornado struck near Whitt, Texas, located about 40 miles northeast of Fort Worth, just after 4:50 a.m. CDT. The tornado peaked with estimated winds of 100 mph and tracked until near the junction of Parker, Jack and Wise counties. The second tornado impacted Poolville, Texas, located about 35 miles northwest of Fort Worth, just 4 minutes after the first tornado touched down. The second tornado also had peak winds of 100 mph and tracked until near Highway 199 at the Wise and Parker County border, according to NWS Fort Worth.
Storms left behind a trail of damage in Parker County, Texas, located northwest of Fort Worth, early Friday morning. AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell said a camper was overturned and a steeple was ripped off a church in Parker County as a tornado-warned storm moved through around 5 a.m. CDT. Additionally, a few homes sustained roof damage and a couple trees were snapped. Only minor injuries were reported with this storm, according to Wadell. A survey crew from the National Weather Service is headed out to determine if a tornado was responsible for the storm damage on Friday morning.
The severe weather risk is increasing across the southern United States, and with damaging storms starting to bubble up, the National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch. The watch was issued for 2.1 million people spanning from northeastern Texas through central Arkansas and is in effect until 7 p.m. CDT Friday. Thunderstorms that develop in this area will be capable of producing damaging winds over 60 mph, hail larger than golf balls, frequent lightning and tornadoes.
AccuWeather meteorologists warn that a violent severe weather outbreak will unfold from portions of the south-central United States to the Midwest into Friday night. Forecasters have highlighted an area from northeastern Louisiana and southeastern Arkansas to western Mississippi that is at high risk for tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds on Friday. A moderate risk expands from central Louisiana and east-central Arkansas to the western third of Tennessee and most of central and northern Mississippi. Some communities still recovering from devastating tornadoes in the last few months will be at risk for severe weather again, but most areas affected in recent months are not under the moderate to high risk for severe weather Friday.
Among the cities in the high risk area is Caldwell Parish, Louisiana, located in the northeastern corner of the state. This parish experienced a strong EF3 tornado on Nov. 29, 2022, which carved a 7.96-mile-long path. Despite being on the ground for only 10 minutes, this tornado injured one person and destroyed several buildings, according to the National Weather Service.
Ashley, Chicot and Desha counties in southeastern Arkansas, are also under Friday’s high risk for severe weather. On Jan. 2, 2023, an EF2 tornado tore a 43.3-mile-long path across these three counties. According to KNOE, widespread damage was reported from the tornado.
Union Parish, Louisiana, located on the Louisiana-Arkansas border, is within the moderate risk area on Friday. This area was the epicenter of an EF3 tornado on Dec. 13, 2022. According to KNOE, this powerful twister had peak winds of 140 mph and injured nearly 25 people.
Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer is in the southern United States and is in a position to intercept severe thunderstorms and tornadoes on Friday afternoon. In a video Timmer recorded near southwestern Arkansas, he explained that it “looks like a multiple-round severe weather event.” The sun was starting to poke through the clouds, which caused the instability in the atmosphere to increase, one of the factors behind the impending outbreak. “These are going to be very fast-moving storms,” Timmer said, adding that “they’re going to be moving more quickly than some of the previous events.”
Watch Timmer’s full breakdown of Friday’s severe weather threat below:
In addition to damaging winds, hail and tornadoes, the storms on Friday will be capable of producing a significant flood threat. Incidents of flooding were already reported from Thursday into Friday morning in areas from Oklahoma City to Cincinnati.
Flooding reports as of 7 a.m. EDT, Friday.
“Pockets of 4-8 inches of rain will occur as downpours repeat for hours over the same geographical area from Thursday night to Friday night,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski stated. “Because of this, moderate flooding along some of the secondary rivers will occur from eastern Oklahoma, northern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri to portions of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio as well as in parts of southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia.”
Motorists are reminded never to drive through flooded roads since water could be deeper than it appears and the road may be damaged or washed away in spots. Motorists should always take an alternate route if they encounter a flooded roadway, experts say.
Knowing the critical difference between a tornado watch and warning will help you prepare for incoming severe weather and could save your life.
Tornado watch: This means you are “watching” for something to happen. Usually issued a few hours before severe storms could hit a broad area. A watch is used to alert the public of a developing threat of tornadoes where conditions exist for creating tornadoes, but one has not necessarily formed yet. When under a watch, it is important to be prepared and remain vigilant.
Tornado warning: This means forecasters are “warning” you to take action and seek shelter immediately. It is more urgent than a tornado watch. Warnings are issued minutes before a tornado strikes a highly localized area. A tornado is imminent or has been detected on radar.
A simple way to remember the difference between both is by using the taco analogy. A watch means the ingredients to make tacos are there, but the taco has not been made yet. A warning means the tacos have been made and are ready right now, eating them is coming very soon.
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