PHOTO: Shop destroyed in Columbia, by Marlon Davis, who also took exclusive video
COLUMBIA, Miss.–A direct hit on the Wilks Trailer Park by a tornado Tuesday afternoon around 2:30 is what is responsible for one of the two deaths in Marion County. The tornado also made a direct hit on power lines as it crossed Hwy. 98, leaving over 6,000 people without power.
As crews worked to get the lights back on, the sun was coming up Wednesday on at least two communities that were hit hard. One is Columbia and the other is on the northwest side of Laurel, in Jones County. Two people died in each of the communities, bringing the total number of dead to four.
“The first report of the tornado that we received, not to say that it didn’t touch down earlier, was at 2:24 p.m. That was a report of power lines down at Hwy. 98,” said Alan Campbell, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“There was also a report of debris falling out of the sky.”
It was about an hour or so later that the Laurel community was hit.
“We’ve got reports of a mobile home with entrapment and a house with entrapment,” said Marda Tullos, with Jones County Emergency Management. She spoke with News Mississippi just after the tornado hit there and crews were still on the way to the scene.
It turned out that both people who died in Jones County were in mobile homes.
“The Mississippi Highway Patrol is obviously here for Marion County and for Columbia,” said State Trooper Brent Barfield, as emergency crews were starting rescue operations Tuesday evening. “We have every available resource in the southern region of the state. The Highway Patrol’s gonna be out around the clock.”
The main highways going into Columbia were eventually all closed because of various types of danger to travelers, including downed lines and debris.
“I though the police had set up a barricade in the road,” said correspondent Marlon Davis. “It was the golden arches from the McDonalds.”
One group of men were at work in their shop, heard the tornado coming and ran for a steel vault.
“I didn’t make it up there in time,” one of the men told News Mississippi. His friends ended up digging him from the rubble.
National Weather Service survey crews were expected to begin their surveys Wednesday morning to determine just how strong the twister or twisters were, and if it was a single tornado that tracked all the way from Columbia to Laurel.
Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency Tuesday evening.
“I have declared a state of emergency to assist local officials with any available state resources that are needed in areas affected by severe weather, specifically in Jones and Marion counties,” said Bryant. “The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service are continuing to monitor the situation in the region.”
A state of emergency is an administrative tool that authorizes the use of additional state resources to aid in storm response efforts.
MEMA released this preliminary report and urged all citizens to stay away from damaged areas:
- Jones: Two deaths. Damage to homes and power outages.
- Lamar: Homes damaged and road closed due to flooding/debris.
- Marion: Two deaths and 20 injuries. Extensive damage to homes and businesses. Multiple roads closed. Numerous power outages. Red Cross Shelter is open at Mt. Carmel Church of God, 573 Mt. Carmel Church Rd. in Foxworth.