Mississippi tornado rated as EF-4 — the fourth EF-4 in 2020, the most fatal tornado year since 2012


The National Weather Service (NWS) has rated the tornado that struck Mississippi over the weekend as EF-4. This is the third violent tornado in the area within just a week, and the fourth EF-4 tornado in 2020, making this year one with the most EF-4 tornadoes since 2014. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has released its initial storm reports, confirming one fatality and more than 80 properties partially or totally damaged. So far this year, tornadoes in the United States caused 67 fatalities, making it the most fatal individual tornado year since 2012.

On Sunday, April 19, 2020, an outbreak of severe weather spawned tornadoes and strong winds across wide swaths of the Deep South. A 70-year-old man died in Marion County, Mississippi, after his house took a direct hit from the storm, Coroner Jessie Graham reported. Another person sustained injuries.

According to NWS's damage survey, the tornado began at around 00:10 UTC on April 20 (19:10 LT on April 19), over southeastern Walthall County, in a field west of Reagan Road.

It moved east-northeastward along MS Highway 48, causing major tree damage and minor damage to homes. It crossed into Marion County near the intersection of MS Highway 48 and Mt Bethel Road.

The twister then started to move more northeastward as it traveled into southwestern Marion County, knocking down trees and a roof, as well as destroying an outdoor shed along New Hope Road. Several trees and a tin roof were snapped along A Pittman, Marks, and Davis roads. It rapidly strengthened once it headed northeast, hitting the majority of trees close to the ground east of New Hope road. 

"The basis for the low-end EF-4 rating was a home on Johnson Road that was completely destroyed with its debris pushed to a corner of the foundation leaving residual vinyl flooring and a few of its anchor bolts bent," NWS wrote.

"Furthermore, across the street from the aforementioned home, in a field, a few of the snapped trees sustained patchy debarking. A higher rating was not assigned because the contents of the home were not spread a significant distance from the foundation and debris remained over a part of the slab. Nonetheless, significant damage to the home and nearby trees occurred."

Multiple power poles were also torn, while several homes had major roof damage. Many mobile homes were totally destroyed, including one where the only fatality was reported.

As the tornado crossed Hurricane Creek Church Road, significant roof damage was also reported, while another shed was entirely destroyed and blown away. Some cemetery headstones were knocked over at this location.

When the twister reached MS Highway 35, it hit multiple power poles and trees. It continued east-northeast to Old MS Highway 35, then east-northeast across the Pearl River bottom. A brick home's roof was entirely pounded, while a few exterior walls collapsed east of MS Highway 43 along Joe Magee Road.

As the tornado reached MS Highway 13, it slightly weakened but the path remained wide, maintaining its east-northeastward path. Numerous power lines and poles were knocked down across the western areas of Lamar County. A dozen homes were affected, from Luther Saucier Road to Purvis, to Columbia Road. The tornado weakened again as it crossed I-59 into Forrest County.

It proceeded into Camp Shelby, then around Lee Avenue, to Glenn Walker Lake. The park and camper area on the north end of the lake was impacted and one person was reportedly injured in the area when a tree fell on a truck. The tornado crossed over US 98 west of the Perry County line, continuing along the Leaf River bottom before vanishing along Old River Road at 01:19 UTC (20:19 LT).

NWS said it rated the tornado as EF-4 and estimated peak winds of 274 km/h (170 mph). Its path length was 87.2 km (54.2 miles), while the path width was 8.5 km (1.3 miles). 

MEMA also released its initial damage reports, which showed that seven homes were affected in Amite; eight homes in Forrest; 10 residential properties in Hancock; one house and one farm were destroyed in Jackson; four houses and two businesses were affected while 15 homes ended with major damage in Lamar; 20 houses were damaged and one fire station was destroyed in Marion; three residences were hit in Perry; one home suffered major damage in Smith, and 10 houses were affected in Walthall. Roads were also closed due to debris in Forrest and Marion.

There have been four EF-4 tornadoes since January 2020– the most than in any single year since 2014, when seven tornadoes with that severity touched down. 

So far this year, tornadoes caused 67 fatalities, making it the most fatal individual year for tornadoes in the U.S. since 2012.

Featured image credit: MEMA

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