Tornadoes and huge thunderstorms barreled across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama late Tuesday and into Wednesday morning, sending millions hunkering down for cover overnight as Southern states were hit by 23 tornadoes.
The National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed that tornadoes hit the ground in Mississippi on Tuesday evening and Alabama was in the path of the storms during the overnight hours, leaving severe damage and at least two dead in Montgomery.
Several homes have been destroyed, thousands of people have been left without power, and a Mississippi church is now missing its steeple as forceful winds, torrential storms, and tornados tore threw.
Mississippi State University students were asked to seek shelter on Tuesday after some classes were taught remotely and dining halls were closed.
Tuesday night, Starkville – where the university is located – was ominous thunder storms and nearly pitch black skies, except for the heat lighting as the tornado moved closer.
In Jackson, heavy straight-line rainfall and harsh winds were seen, as one man filmed his neighborhood streets being rushed with water.
The Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency in Alabama also claimed the storm damaged several houses overnight and injured residents north of the Alabama River Parkway.
One woman stopped on the roadway to film a tornado moving across a field as the entire sky was gray around 5pm in Jackson.
More than 25million people are at risk as the vast storm system continues to travel across the Deep South, with southeast Mississippi and southwest Alabama also subject to flash flood warnings.
Tornado warnings have been issued for Santa Rosa Beach, Bruce, and Freeport, Florida, as the massive storm cell continues to move.
Heavy rain and hail as big as tennis balls were also possible as forecasters said the weather outbreak was expected to continue.
More than 41,000 customers were without power as of Wednesday morning in Alabama, according to poweroutage.us, while the NWS office in Mobile urged residents to seek shelter as a ‘large and damaging’ active tornado tore through a rural area.
‘Damaging winds will be the primary threat,’ the service said on Twitter this morning – though around 4million people in Alabama are subject to flood warnings.
Startling video footage in Mississippi showed how tornadoes whipped up the clouds into a churning frenzy, with lightning bolts flashing across the ink black sky.
Meanwhile, other clips from Alabama showed the power of the storm which blanketed streets in rain so heavy visibility was reduced to mere feet as yard furniture was ripped up off the ground and thrown about in the air.
A huge tornado darkens the sky near Bay Springs, Mississippi
Tornado damage reported near District One Volunteer Fire/Rescue in Lowndes County, MS
Rain blanketed this street in Alabama as lawn chairs and yard furniture were whipped up and blown through the air
Heavy rains are pictured outside a house in Jackson, MS, as a supercell storm batters the Deep South
There are severe storm warnings in place across the Deep South, with Mississippi set to bear the brunt of the tornadoes and flooding along with and Louisiana and Alabama
A vehicle races along a Jackson, Miss., street as lightning streaks across the sky, Tuesday evening, Nov. 29, 2022
Heavy rains are battering the South across multiple states with flash flood warnings in place
The string of tornadoes extending from Illinois to Louisiana will barrell across the country overnight when most people are asleep and unprepared
The NWS received reports of people trapped at a grocery store in Caledonia, Mississippi, just after 6pm.
Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency Director Cindy Lawrence told WTVA-TV the people inside the grocery store made it out safely.
Lawrence also said a family trapped in a house about a mile from the store escaped.
Additional reports of property damage near Columbus were received by the NWS, according to Lance Perrilloux, a forecaster with the agency.
In Western Alabama, a suspected tornado damaged numerous homes in Hale County, according to storm damage reports to the National Weather Service.
About 29,000 customers were without power early Wednesday morning.
Craig Ceecee, a meteorologist at Mississippi State University, peered out at ‘incredibly black’ skies through the door of a tornado shelter in Starkville.
He estimated that about 100 people had already arrived as a lightning storm persisted outside.
The Oktibbeha County Emergency Management agency is operating the shelter, about three miles from the university’s campus.
Ceecee said the dome-shaped multipurpose facility was capable of withstanding 250mph winds.
Before Tuesday’s storm, Ceecee built a database of Mississippi tornado shelters. He said there are several towns without any.
‘I’ve had to go through events without (shelters), and trust me, they were scary,’ Ceecee said.
Heavy rain can be seen spraying off of cars as a series of thunderstorms sweep across Mississippi and Alabama
Lightning brightens the evening sky in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022
This photo provided by Craig Ceecee shows a tornado shelter opened by the Oktibbeha County Emergency Management agency on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, in Starkville, Miss
The clouds are seen darkening as a tornado brews over Mississippi
Heavy rains are whipping across Mississippi
In the small town of Tchula, Mississippi, hail stones crashed against the windows of City Hall, as the mayor and other residents took cover during a tornado warning.
‘It was hitting against the window, and you could tell that it was nice-sized balls of it,’ Mayor Ann Polk said after the storm passed.
It’s rare that federal forecasters warn of major tornadoes with the potential for carving damages across long distances, as they did in Tuesday’s forecasts.
Tornado watches covering much of Louisiana and Mississippi were announced due to ‘a particularly dangerous situation,’ the NWS said.
‘Supercells are expected to develop this afternoon and track northeastward across much of northeast Louisiana and central Mississippi,’ the weather service said.
‘Parameters appear favorable for strong and long-tracked tornadoes this afternoon and early evening.’
The most intense wave of the storm was projected to move through Mississippi between 5pm and 8pm, said Sarah Sickles, an NWS forecaster in Jackson, the state capital.
‘Multiple rounds of severe thunderstorms – some capable of long-tracked tornadoes with EF3+ damage potential – will be possible this afternoon into tonight over parts of the lower Mississippi Valley region and Mid-South,’ the Norman, Oklahoma-based Storm Prediction Center said.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency meanwhile posted a flurry of tornado warnings on social media, urging people to take shelter.
Tornadoes with an EF3 rating on the Enhanced Fujita tornado scale can produce wind gusts of up to 165 mph.
All remaining classes at Mississippi State University’s main campus in Starkville switched to remote instruction Tuesday due to the weather.
A Mississippi State women’s basketball game against the University of Louisiana-Monroe was to be played on campus, but the venue was closed to spectators.
Alcorn State University and the University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg were closing early.
Some of Mississippi’s public school systems also closed early.
Flood watches were issued for parts of southeast Mississippi and southwest Alabama, where 3 to 5 inches of rain could lead to flash flooding, the National Weather Service said.
‘Heavy rain and lightning rolling across Morgan County,’ the Alabama county’s Sheriff’s Office posted on Twitter late last night.
Meanwhile, heavy snow was snarling traffic in some parts of the Upper Midwest.
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport tweeted Tuesday afternoon that its runways were closed due to fast snowfall rates and reduced visibility.
Air traffic websites showed some inbound planes circling or diverting to other airports such as St. Cloud, Minnesota, and Fargo, North Dakota.
The National Weather Service reported nearly 4 inches of snow on the ground at the airport by noon.
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