Storms made their presence known across the state of Mississippi over the weekend and two tornadoes have been confirmed by the National Weather Service, but that number may continue to grow.
An EF-1 tornado occurred in Jackson with winds around 90 mph, and an EF-2 tornado was confirmed in the Meridian area with 115 mph winds. Homes were damaged, trees were ripped from the ground and more than 10,000 people were without power. Lee Smithson, Executive Director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, says that 15 homes were destroyed, 29 suffered from major damage, and 12 apartments were destroyed in Lauderdale County alone. Assesment is underway in other areas across the state and when it’s over, Smithson says that the total number of tornadoes will be in double figures.
An NWS Jackson storm survey team has determined an EF-2 tornado with estimated maximum winds of 115 mph occurred this morning in the Meridian area. pic.twitter.com/KDjV6afsoF
— NWS Jackson MS (@NWSJacksonMS) April 15, 2018
An NWS Jackson storm survey team has determined an EF-1 tornado occurred along Lakeland Dr in Flowood this morning. pic.twitter.com/Itl9qU8Het
— NWS Jackson MS (@NWSJacksonMS) April 14, 2018
“We have 30 counties total that reported some type of damage, so I think by the time that the NWS gets finished with their assessment, it’ll be over a dozen tornadoes that impacted the state on Saturday,” he said.
Smithson says that the NWS is the only organization that can confirm a tornado, but they are confident that others took place, including one in Jackson County. The “EF” scale stands for Enhanced Fujita Scale and it ranges from 0-5, with 5 being described as a violent tornado with 200 mph + winds.
Two minor injuries were reported, but no deaths have been reported as a result of the severe weather. Smithson says that lack of injuries shows that Mississippians are taking weather seriously, and preparing for the dangerous weather ahead of time.
“The key is being prepared and being weather-aware. In the plain states, where there are no trees, you can see tornadoes coming from miles away. In Mississippi, we don’t have that luxury, and a lot of the storms that hit are rain-wrapped or at night,” Smithson warned. “So, it’s important for everyone to be prepared, have a safe place picked out in their home, at school or their place of business and monitor the weather. With the number of homes destroyed with no injuries; I think it’s a testament that people in the state really are prepared.”
This preparation has become increasingly important due to the high volume of tornadic activity in Mississippi in recent years.
“For two years in a row, Mississippi has had more tornadoes than any other state in the nation. I know a lot of people think of Kansas or Oklahoma, but it’s not. It’s Mississippi, followed by Alabama,” Smithson said. “You’re starting to see a shift in the tornadic activity from the plain states back down into the South.”
Smithson says that the NWS in Jackson has led the nation in tornado warnings issued over the past two years as well, but there is no confirmed cause of the shift. Also unknown is when the next threat will arise. While there may be peaks of activity, tornado season in Mississippi can be a bit unpredictable.
“Mississippi is kind of strange, we are in tornado season year-round. April and December are, historically, our most active months. Actually, the last week of April is usually the busiest week that we have all year long. We are always hoping to get through April, and we breathe a sigh of relief when we get into May.”
Crews from both MEMA and the NWS will continue to assess damage from the storms throughout the day.