ROLLING FORK, Mississipi, March 24: Storms producing tornadoes, damaging wind gusts, and hail up to the size of golf balls were moving through several southern states Friday night with widespread damage and injuries reported in Mississippi from a large tornado.
The National Weather Service in Jackson confirmed a tornado caused damage in Silver City and Rolling Fork and was still moving just before 9 p.m. into the northwest side of Tchula and along Highway 49.
The current Rolling Fork mayor, Eldridge Walker, told WLBT-TV he was unable to get out of his damaged home soon after the tornado hit the town because power lines were down. He said emergency responders were trying to take injured people to hospitals. He did not immediately know how many people had been hurt.
A former mayor of Rolling Fork, Fred Miller, told the television station a tornado blew the windows out of the back of his house.
“Heading to Vicksburg hospital with injured residents of Rolling Fork MS they need emergency personnel NOw,” storm chaser Reed Timmer posted on Twitter.
Earlier Friday a car was swept away and two passengers drowned in southwestern Missouri during torrential rains that were part of a severe weather system. Authorities said six young adults were in the vehicle that was swept away as the car tried to cross a bridge over a flooded creek in the town of Grovespring.
Four of the six made it out of the water. The body of Devon Holt, 20, of Grovespring, was found at 3:30 a.m., and the body of Alexander Roman-Ranelli, 19, of Springfield, was recovered about six hours later, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Thomas Young said.
The driver told authorities that the rain made it difficult to see that water from a creek had covered the bridge, Young said.
Meanwhile, the search continued in another southwestern Missouri county for a woman who was missing after flash flooding from a small river washed a car off the road. The Logan Rogersville Fire Protection District said the victim’s dog was found safe, but there was no sign of the woman. Two others who were in the car were rescued. Crews planned to use boats and have searchers walking along the riverbank.
When a woman’s SUV got swept up in rushing flood waters Friday morning near Granby, Missouri, Layton Hoyer made his way through icy-cold waters to rescue her. Other rescuers were unable to save her three dogs, authorities said.
Some parts of southern Missouri saw nearly 3 inches (8 centimeters) of rain Thursday night and into Friday morning as severe weather hit other areas. A suspected tornado touched down early Friday in north Texas.
Matt Elliott, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said severe weather was expected across several states.
The Storm Prediction Center warned the greatest threat of tornadoes would come in portions of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Storms with damaging winds and hail were forecast from eastern Texas and southeastern Oklahoma into parts of southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois.
More than 28,000 customers had lost power in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee as of Friday night, according to poweroutage.us.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned of potential tornados reaching the state overnight and urged residents to prepare for severe weather, including damaging winds and hail. The risk of personal vulnerability increases with overnight severe weather as residents are less likely to receive warnings because they are asleep and tornadoes are more difficult to spot, according to the National Weather Service.
In Texas, a suspected tornado struck about 5 a.m. in the southwest corner of Wise County, damaging homes and downing trees and power lines, said Cody Powell, the county’s emergency management coordinator. Powell said he had no reports of injuries.
The weather service had not confirmed a tornado, but damage to homes was also reported in neighboring Parker County, said meteorologist Matt Stalley.
The two areas are about 10 miles (16 kilometers) apart on the western edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, and Stalley said the storm system was expected to move east of the region by early Friday afternoon.