National Weather Service confirms four tornadoes

William Moore, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo
·3 min read

May 4—TUPELO — The National Weather Service in Memphis has confirmed that the storms that hit northeast Mississippi Sunday night produced at least four tornadoes in Calhoun, Pontotoc, Lee and Itawamba counties.

The NWS dispatched two survey teams Monday to determine if the damage caused by the storms was the result of straight-line winds or a tornado. One team started in Calhoun County and followed the path to the northeast. The second team started in Itawamba County and backtracked the damage to the southwest.

The storm that moved briskly to the northeast spawned the first tornado near Calhoun City at around 8:30 p.m. on May 2. About two hours later, the fourth tornado from the same storm lifted in the Ratliff community, northwest of Mantachie, in Itawamba County.

The first tornado was rated as an EF-1 and lasted just three minutes. It started just southwest of town at 8:30 p.m. Wind and falling trees caused a good deal of roof damage throughout the area. An older masonry building in the path was destroyed. This tornado had an estimated peak wind speed of 90 mph and traveled 2 miles with a maximum width of 50 yards.

The second tornado started in the Black Zion community in Pontotoc County and traveled to near southwest Tupelo. This EF-1 tornado saw wind speeds of up to 90 mph. It started at 9:40 p.m. and travelled 4.5 miles over its 10-minute life span. At its largest, the path was 80 yards wide. It caused roof damage to several houses along King's Highway in Pontotoc County and damaged several trees along Lee County Road 900. The NWS report said the damage path then became intermittent, with the last observed damage being just west of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

The third and longest-tracking tornado of the night started at 9:53 p.m. near the Spring Lake neighborhood. It caused widespread damage as it traveled from one side of Tupelo to the other. Winds reached 100 mph (EF-1), and the tornado reached a width of 400 yards (nearly a quarter-mile) at one point along the 12.8-mile path.

The first signs of damage were near South Thomas Street. It caused minor damage to trees and roofs in the Thomas Street and Lawndale Drive areas. The damage was more continuous as it reached Main Street. Numerous trees were uprooted. Snapped tress fell on several houses, causing substantial damage.

The NWS said the storm reached its peak intensity as it reached east Tupelo and the areas near North Veterans and Elvis Presley Drive. Several commercial buildings and residences were damaged. Two houses suffered partial roof removal.

After it crossed Interstate 22, the tornado became more sporadic, but it still managed to uproot more trees, dropping several on houses. The last damage from this tornado was spotted near Lee County Road 1451.

The final tornado produced by the storm started at 10:22 p.m. about 7 miles east of Saltillo in rural Lee County. The EF-0 tornado could only muster wind speeds of 75 mph along the 2-mile length. It lasted four minutes.

According to the NWS, this last tornado produced tree damage along Lee County Road 1970 and Ita-Lee Road. The last damage was seen just south of Highway 363 in the Ratliff community.

william.moore@djournal.com