‘Devastating’ tornado hits Mississippi, storm kills 19, officials say

A “devastating” tornado and strong thunderstorms swept across Mississippi late Friday, killing at least 19 people and causing more than 100 miles of damage, local and federal officials said.

Mississippi’s Emergency Management Agency said late Friday that search and rescue operations were underway in Sharkey and Humphreys counties. The agency issued a series of cyclone warnings for districts across the state.

“Many people in MS Delta need your prayers and God’s protection tonight,” said Governor Tate Reeves. Twitter. “We have activated medical assistance — providing more ambulances and other emergency assets for the victims. Search and rescue is active.”

Thirteen people died in Sharkey County, Coroner Angela Easton told ABC News, adding that she could not yet confirm their ages. Carroll County Coroner Mark Stiles said three people died. Two other people died in Monroe County, Coroner Alan Gurley said. One person died in Silver City, Humphreys County, Mississippi Highway Patrol Trooper Jose Watson said.

A tornado was reported in the Silver City and Rolling Fork area around 8:50 p.m. local time, the National Weather Service said, as thunderstorms swept the state late Friday.

Rolling Fork was “pretty devastated,” United Cajun Fleet President Todd Terrell said in a phone interview with ABC News.

From there, the tornado rolled over the northwest side of Tchula and along Highway 49, officials said.

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“9:31 p.m. – Confirmed tornado crosses I-55 and moves into Winona, Montgomery County shortly after,” NWS officials in Jackson, Mississippi, said in the warning. Twitter About half an hour later. “Hide now!”

A tornado emergency warning was later issued for the city of Winona, about 100 miles northeast of Rolling Fork, as “a devastating tornado is moving northeast through the city,” an NWS official said.

Watson urged people to stay away from Silver City unless they had family. He said the scene was “chaotic” and traffic through the area was making it difficult for search and rescue teams to carry out their work.

“Please be advised, Silver City was hit very hard by the tornado,” Watson said. A video It was posted on Facebook before describing the damage to some areas as “extremely devastating”.

Terrell, of the United Cajun Marines, said he based his description of the storm on information from 17 of the organization’s volunteers in Rolling Fork.

“I would say it was in Joplin or worse,” he said, referring to the 2011 tornado that killed 161 people.

He said his team’s top priority was to help with rescue efforts, noting that “there are still a lot of people trapped in their homes.” He also flagged clean water and food as a significant concern.

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“It seems like adults strike in the night and he has no warning,” he said. “We know it’s going to be bad in those areas, but nobody can prepare for this total disaster.”

ABC News’ Ahmed Hemingway contributed to this story.

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