Tornado rips through Mississippi Delta; weather blamed in 2 deaths amid severe storms, floods and snow across U.S.
Dangerous and deadly flash flooding – along with severe thunderstorms and at least one tornado - hit parts of the southern and central U.S. Friday while a late-season snowstorm was forecast to blanket portions of the Great Lakes. The Pacific Northwest also saw snow.
A tornado tore through a rural area of the Mississippi Delta Friday night, causing injuries, widespread damage and downing power lines as severe weather that produced hail the size of golf balls moved through several southern states.
The National Weather Service in Jackson confirmed a tornado caused damage about 60 miles northeast of Jackson. The towns of Silver City and Rolling Fork were reporting destruction as the tornado continued moving just before 9 p.m. into the northwest side of Tchula and along Highway 49.
Rolling Fork mayor Eldridge Walker told WLBT-TV he was unable to get out of his damaged home soon after the tornado hit 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.
The National Weather Service in Jackson, Miss. reported that a member of law enforcement told them the Sharkey Issaquena Community Hospital in Rolling Fork was damaged by a tornado.
At around 9:40 CT, the Mississippi State Emergency Management Agency tweeted that search and rescue teams were being sent to arkey and Humpreys County, and that a hospital in Sharkey was being assessed. The agency said damage assessments would begin in the morning.
In Missouri, a flash flood killed two people early Friday. One other person was missing.
"It's a very stormy month," said Bob Larson, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather. "It's prime battleground, meteorologically."
Here's what you need to know about Friday's weather:
Flood watches across the central U.S.
More than 18 million people across parts of 10 states were under a flood watch Friday as widespread showers and thunderstorms threatened to soak the Lower Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio Valleys.
Flash flooding could hit parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the National Weather Service said.
Many of those states can expect heavy rain and strong winds, with some places expected to get more than 4 inches of rain.
The weather service forecast 2 to 3 inches of rainfall for much of Missouri and Illinois on Friday, with localized amounts up to 5 inches expected over southeast Missouri and southwest Illinois.
On Saturday, portions of the Midwest and Northeast can expect high winds, with widespread winds of 40 to 50 mph from Michigan through Indiana and Ohio and into New York and western Pennsylvania.
Two dead, one missing in Missouri flash floods
Two people died early Friday in southwestern Missouri when a car was swept away during torrential rains.
The accident happened just after midnight in a sparsely populated area. 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 made it out of the water, but two did not.
Heavy overnight rain also swept away another vehicle in Fordland, leaving one person unaccounted for, authorities said.
The car reportedly became stranded near a low-water crossing at Finley River on Thursday night, according to the Logan Rogersville Fire Protection District.
Two people were rescued from the water and authorities continued to search for the unaccounted person Friday. Meanwhile, much of Missouri’s southern portion remained under flood watches or warnings.
A MODERATE risk is in effect in our Day 1 Excessive Rainfall Outlook. More details: https://t.co/FQU5sbmsxo pic.twitter.com/RpYIhHDs4Y
— NWS Weather Prediction Center (@NWSWPC) March 24, 2023
Severe weather outbreak threatens in the South
Severe thunderstorms are expected across a large swath of the South from the Gulf Coast region up to the Tennessee Valley, with the epicenter over Jackson, Mississippi, almost up to Memphis.
Larson said residents can expect downpours, damaging winds in excess of 60 mph and the potential for large hail and tornadoes.
A tornado watch has been issued for parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas until 7:00 p.m. CDT, the weather service reported. A tornado watch means that weather conditions are favorable for tornadoes to form.
The storm system will head to the Carolinas by Saturday but is expected to weaken.
The weather service added that "a significant severe weather event" is likely late Friday afternoon into Friday night, with the primary threat coming from potentially strong tornadoes.
The Storm Prediction Center said "the most likely time period for strong tornadoes is between 5 pm to Midnight CDT."
Earlier Friday morning, a suspected tornado touched down in north Texas. The likely tornado struck about 5 a.m. in Wise County, damaging homes and downing trees and power lines. There were no reports of injuries.
In Kentucky: Flood watch issued in Louisville area with a rainy Friday ahead.
7:46am CDT #SPC Day1 Outlook Moderate Risk: Southeast AR, northeast LA, and western to northern MS https://t.co/TgJgC6cQZw pic.twitter.com/JVBanhpu9R
— NWS Storm Prediction Center (@NWSSPC) March 24, 2023
Spring snowstorm for Great Lakes and Northeast
A snowstorm is forecast to hit the Great Lakes, dumping between 5 and 10 inches in Traverse City, Michigan; up to 6 inches in Madison, Wisconsin; and between 1 and 3 inches in Milwaukee.
"It looks like a significant storm," Larson said.
The storm should move into the Northeast later Friday night and into Saturday, bringing snow to upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Between 6 and 12 inches of snow is expected in parts of Maine.
US winter storm map
Snow for the Pacific Northwest
Winter storm warnings and advisories are in place in parts of the Pacific Northwest, where a storm coming off the Pacific will make for a mucky Friday.
In Washington state, significant snow is expected, with accumulations ranging from 8 to 18 inches in the Cascades above 2,500 feet in elevation.
Snow accumulations between 5 and 8 inches are likelier below 2,000 feet along Washington's Coastal Range.
"Travel will be difficult over the mountain passes," the weather service in Pendleton, Oregon, said.
Heavy snow totals of over a foot are also forecast for the Northern Rockies and southward into the eastern Great Basin, with more moderate snowfall for the ranges of the Central Rockies, the Weather Prediction Center said.
The weather service said accumulating snow is possible at any elevation across the greater Portland metro area through Friday into Saturday morning.
"However, the chances of receiving 1 inch or more of snow remain around 20 to 30% for any given location in the interior lowlands during these times," the weather service said.
Larson said, "It's certainly going to be a period of nasty weather."
National weather radar
Contributing: Dinah Pulver; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tornado rips through Mississippi Delta; floods, snow smack other parts of U.S.