February 11, 2022
As severe weather season begins across America, Midland Meteorologist, Bruce Jones, is taking a look at each region to share unique weather characteristics, local storm stories, tips to prepare yourself, and more.
In America’s tornado record book, few states rival Mississippi for deadly twisters. The #8, #4, and #2 deadliest twisters in US history all occurred in the Magnolia State, where large and violent EF-4 and EF-5 twisters return with alarming frequency.
In April 2020, an EF-4 tornado near Bassfield grew to more than two miles wide, the third-largest tornado on record. The average tornado is 300-500 yards wide. Bassfield measured 3,960 yards.
The Purvis tornado of April 24, 1908 is the 8th deadliest in U.S. history. It touched down in Louisiana around noon. IT was reported to be two miles wide before it crossed the Pearl River into Mississippi. 15 miles south of Hattiesburg, the town of Purvis lays directly in the tornado’s path. Of 150 homes in town, fewer than 10 remained standing. Lamar County’s death toll was 60. 55 of those occurred in the near-total destruction of Purvis. By modern calculations, it was an EF4 tornado.
America’s fourth deadliest tornado was survived by one-year-old Elvis Aaron Presley and his parents. On the evening of April 5, 1936, a maximum strength EF5 tornado struck the west, north, and northeast edges of Tupelo. Lucky for music fans, the Presleys lived on the south side of town, out of the main path. Although it missed downtown Tupelo, many homes and farms were completely obliterated by this quarter-mile-wide twister. That included the residence of Jim and Jennie Burrough. They and all eleven of their children perished and are buried together in Priceville Cemetery. They are part of an estimated 233 people killed by this storm.
The third-deadliest tornado in US History, and the worst ever for Mississippi, occurred on May 6, 1840. Estimated to be a mile wide, it traveled up the Mississippi River from seven miles southwest of Natchez, straight into town. Along the river, countless cargo and passenger boats were destroyed, with a heavy loss of life. Once inside Natchez, the early afternoon tornado leveled the northern half of the city, generating $1.26 million in damage. That is more than $40 million in today’s dollars. 317 deaths were recorded; however, many African-American deaths were not included in this racially-biased “official” death toll. The actual loss of life is undoubtedly a much larger number.
The Yazoo, MS tornado of April 24, 2010 left a well-scoured path of broken trees and bashed-up buildings that was easily visible from the air. This violent EF4 tornado was 1.75 miles wide. The storm also brought in excess of 170 m.p.h. and left a continuous trail of destruction for 142 miles. Its damage path is the strip of brown that stretches all the way to the horizon.
Photo source: NWS-Jackson MS
Photo source: NWS-Jackson MS
Mississippi is one of the southern states with a scary number of nocturnal tornadoes, which are very dangerous. Because of its warm climate, there are a lot of mobile homes throughout the state.
If you live in Mississippi, or you have family members who do, make sure a NOAA Weather Radio is inside the home.
Ensure the radio is plugged in and armed with back-up batteries.
These radios will alert you in the dark of night, even when the power is out. With an 80-decibel alert tone, they are specifically designed to awaken even the heaviest sleeper.
The Midland model WR-120 desktop radio is inexpensive, very popular, and has saved many, many lives.
In Mississippi, that next storm could come sooner than you think.