At Least 6 Killed as Severe Weather Strikes Mississippi, Officials Say

At Least 6 Killed as Severe Weather Strikes Mississippi, Officials Say

At least six people were dead after severe weather sweeping across the South raked parts of Mississippi on Sunday, leading the governor to declare a state of emergency.

“This is not how anyone wants to celebrate Easter Sunday,” Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, said in a statement. “As we reflect on the death and resurrection on this Easter Sunday, we have faith that we will all rise together.”

The National Weather Service in Jackson received several reports of tornadoes in the area, and at least two of them prompted “tornado emergency” warnings, which are issued only for “dangerous tornadoes that could produce catastrophic damage,” said John Moore III, a meteorologist with the service.

Officials will not know the tornadoes’ exact paths or strengths until teams can be sent to survey the damage in the coming days, but radar did pick up a clue: debris lift.

“That’s how we’re able to tell that the tornadoes were actually on the ground,” Mr. Moore said. “We could see on radar it was lifting debris up into the atmosphere, some even 5,000 feet.”

Images posted on social media showed destroyed structures and lawns covered in debris.

The tornadoes were produced by severe thunderstorms, Mr. Moore said, noting that more of these thunderstorms were moving through the same area and could produce additional tornadoes.

“April is our primary severe weather season for Mississippi,” he said. These types of storms are typically seen this time of the year, but “strong tornadoes anywhere is rare,” he added.

The tornadoes started in South Mississippi in Walthall County, and moved northeast into Jefferson Davis and Covington Counties, said Kelly Richardson, a representative for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

“The two most devastating tornadoes today followed a very similar path, one right after the other,” she said.

Bill Bunting, the chief of forecast operations at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, said severe weather was “an event that we had been anticipating for about five days.”

“Unfortunately, it has played out like we feared,” he said, adding, “All of the ingredients, all the conditions that we look for when we’re forecasting tornadoes and strong tornadoes, were in place.”

Pockets of the South awoke on Sunday to thunderous rain, squalls and lightning as a storm made its way across East Texas and into northern Louisiana, where a tornado damaged houses and commercial buildings.

As the storms moved east, the Weather Service issued a tornado watch through 10 p.m. Central time for parts of Alabama and Tennessee.

The storm brought torrential rains to East Texas overnight and into Sunday morning, the service said. By Sunday afternoon, a tornado had touched down in Monroe, in northeast Louisiana, destroying houses and damaging planes and structures at a regional airport.

Sahmeka Deburr, 38, of Monroe said she heard what sounded like someone pounding the walls of her house just after noon. She thought her 12-year-old son was playing in the next room, but then she heard a window shatter.

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