Nearly two dozen people were killed and many more injured in Mississippi after powerful tornadoes ripped through the Deep South overnight, authorities said.
The outbreak of severe weather left a 100-mile path of destruction across rural parts of Mississippi all the way to Alabama, leaving thousands without power and wiping out much of the Mississippi cities of Rolling Fork and Silver City.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency confirmed the death toll in a tweet early Saturday morning, but warned it was likely to rise.
“We can confirm 23 dead, dozens injured, 4 missing from the tornadoes last night,” said the agency tweeted shortly after 6 a.m. local time. “We have numerous state and local search and rescue teams continuing to work this morning. A number of assets are on the ground to help those who have been affected.”
A follow-up tweet sent two hours later read: “Unfortunately, these numbers are expected to change.”
The tornado appeared to form near Lake Providence, Louisiana, around 8:00 p.m., local WAPT-TV reported. It then rapidly gained strength as it approached the Mississippi River. rolling fork took a direct hit of the “wedge tornado,” forecasters said.
“Wedge Tornado” is a term used to describe a tornado that “appears wider than the distance from the ground to the ambient cloud base,” and appears wider than it is tall, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. AccuWeather says they are some of the larger, more destructive types of tornadoes.
“My city is gone”, Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker told CNN. “But we are resilient and we are going to come back strong,” he added.
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Stephanie Cox, photographer and storm chaser, shared a photo on Twitter of the “absolutely violent tornado” Friday night.
“What I witnessed tonight was crazy,” he wrote. “Pray for the people of Rolling Fork. It’s not a good situation at all.”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said on social media Saturday morning that search and rescue teams were still active.
As the cleanup takes place, the National Weather Service warned residents to “be careful near damaged buildings,” “watch out for power lines,” and to avoid walking or driving through floodwaters, as they “can contain harmful bacteria, chemicals, sharp objects, life.” wires and reptiles/other animals.”
About 46,000 homes and businesses lost power in Tennessee, along with 20,000 in Alabama and 15,000 in Mississippi, according to the tracking site. PowerOutage.us.
Earlier this year, a series of powerful tornadoes struck Alabama and Georgia, killing at least eight people.
with cable news services