Southern storms, flooding, tornado in east Mississippi city

Published 02-24-2019

0 Ratings

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) - A tornado smashed into a commercial district in the small Mississippi city of Columbus on Saturday afternoon, shattering businesses as severe storms raked the South amid days of drenching rains and a rising flood threat.

The tornado struck about 5 p.m. in the east Mississippi city and was confirmed on radar, said meteorologist Anna Wolverton with the National Weather Service in Jackson. She said by phone with The Associated Press that a team would go to the city of about 23,000 people Sunday to gauge the tornado's intensity.

There were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries.

Lee Lawrence, who said he has been selling used cars for decades in Columbus, told The AP that four buildings on his car lot had been destroyed. He said trees toppled across vehicles and car windows had been blown out. And he said he had no idea about how badly his collection of antique cars fared.

He said he was at home getting ready to take a bath when the storm struck.

"The wind all of a sudden just got so strong and it was raining so much you could hardly see out the door, and I could hear a roaring. Evidently it came close," he said, speaking with AP in a phone interview. He said someone called him soon after about the damage to his business and he rushed over.

"It will be a start-over deal," Lawrence said. "I can't say it will come back better or stronger, but we'll come back."

A photographer working for The AP in Columbus said some antique cars on Lawrence's lot were parked among the damage and a nearby pet grooming business appeared now to be mostly twisted piles of metal. A printing shop had been speared by a pipe with great force and what seemed to be a vacant commercial building nearby appeared heavily damaged.

Firefighters and law enforcement officers had cordoned off the area, making it difficult to determine the extent of the damage after nightfall. Power also was blacked out in the area.

Elsewhere around the South, homes, highways, parks and bridges have been flooded or put out of commission amid the heavy rains and severe storms. News outlets report that water rescues have been performed in some Middle Tennessee counties. Flash flood warnings and wa

"It will be a start-over deal," Lawrence said. "I can't say it will come back better or stronger, but we'll come back."

A photographer working for The AP in Columbus said some antique cars on Lawrence's lot were parked among the damage and a nearby pet grooming business appeared now to be mostly twisted piles of metal. A printing shop had been speared by a pipe with great force and what seemed to be a vacant commercial building nearby appeared heavily damaged.

Firefighters and law enforcement officers had cordoned off the area, making it difficult to determine the extent of the damage after nightfall. Power also was blacked out in the area.

Elsewhere around the South, homes, highways, parks and bridges have been flooded or put out of commission amid the heavy rains and severe storms. News outlets report that water rescues have been performed in some Middle Tennessee counties. Flash flood warnings and watches remained in place throughout the South and one Mississippi community reported large hail.

Interstate 40 near the Tennessee line with North Carolina was closed by a rockslide, one of the dozens of roads and highways shut down throughout the South region, transportation officials said.

Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Nagi said on Twitter that a "full scale detour" was in place, with traffic being diverted to Interstate 81 and Interstate 26.

In Bruce, Mississippi, rivers broke flood stage and flash floods poured into homes and businesses. News outlets report that a local state of emergency was declared by officials in Grenada, Mississippi, after dozens of streets and homes flooded. A six-mile (nine-kilometer) stretch of the Natchez Trace Parkway was closed in Mississippi after water covered part of the road.

Firefighters and law enforcement officers had cordoned off the area, making it difficult to determine the extent of the damage after nightfall. Power also was blacked out in the area.

Elsewhere around the South, homes, highways, parks and bridges have been flooded or put out of commission amid the heavy rains and severe storms. News outlets report that water rescues have been performed in some Middle Tennessee counties. Flash flood warnings and watches remained in place throughout the South and one Mississippi community reported large hail.

Interstate 40 near the Tennessee line with North Carolina was closed by a rockslide, one of the dozens of roads and highways shut down throughout the South region, transportation officials said.

Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Nagi said on Twitter that a "full scale detour" was in place, with traffic being diverted to Interstate 81 and Interstate 26.

In Bruce, Mississippi, rivers broke flood stage and flash floods poured into homes and businesses. News outlets report that a local state of emergency was declared by officials in Grenada, Mississippi, after dozens of streets and homes flooded. A six-mile (nine-kilometer) stretch of the Natchez Trace Parkway was closed in Mississippi after water covered part of the road.

The National Weather Service had issued a flash flood warning for northwestern Lafayette County in Mississippi after emergency officials reported that a local dam was at risk of failing.

Meteorologist Kole Fehling says emergency officials reported the threat involved the Audubon Dam, which blocks a creek on the northside of Oxford and a subdivision. Emergency management officials were not immediately available for comment Saturday.

High water also threatened property in Tennessee, which, like many other areas of the South, has been soaked by several inches of rain over the past week. Officials said a mudslide destroyed a Subway restaurant in Signal Mountain, Tennessee. No injuries were reported.

Weather officials said the storm system threatened areas from eastern Arkansas across the South to Alabama. Alabama's governor declared an emergency in several counties as a measure to speed any recovery.

Kentucky announced Friday that it was closing the U.S. 51 bridge over the Ohio River to Cairo, Illinois, because of flooding on the southern approach. The bridge, which carries 4,700 vehicles a day, is likely to stay closed until Thursday, and possibly longer.

Near Jamestown, Kentucky, the Army Corps of Engineers said it was increasing releases from the Wolf Creek Dam on the Cumberland River. Areas located downstream of the dam, from Rowena to Burkesville, could be affected by flooding as a result, officials said.

The Ohio River at Cairo is predicted to crest Sunday at its third-highest level ever recorded, and stay that high into next week. The Tennessee River near Savannah, Tennessee, also is forecast to crest at near-record levels.

___

Associated Press writers Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee and Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, contributed to this story, along with freelance photographer Jim Lytle working in Columbus, Mississippi.

No comments found. Sign up or Login to rate and review content.

A 1923 Studebaker, left and a 1930 Chevrolet Paddy Wagon are exposed at Lawrence Motors along highway 50 in Columbus, Miss., after a tornado struck the area Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle) - The Associated Press


A metal pipe sticks through the exterior wall of Fast Dog Printing Co. on Conway Drive in Columbus, Miss., after a tornado struck the area Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. The owners of the business said the pipe extended about four feet inside the business. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle) - The Associated Press


A large tree is down into one of several buildings housing antique cars at Lawrence Motors on highway 50 in Columbus, Miss., after a tornado struck the area Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle) - The Associated Press


A destroyed business along Conway Drive in Columbus, Miss., sits in ruins after an apparent tornado struck the area on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle) - The Associated Press


A building belonging to Lawrence Motors along Highway 50 in Columbus, Miss. is destroyed by a tornado on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. The building housed several antique cars. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle) - The Associated Press


A car in the parking lot of Fast Dog Printing Co. on Conway Drive in Columbus, Miss., has it's rear window smashed after a tornado struck the area Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle) - The Associated Press


Downed power lines, trees and building debris from businesses including B.J.'s Dog Grooming liter Conway Drive in Columbus, Miss., after a tornado struck the area on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle) - The Associated Press


Tin from nearby businesses is piled up in front of Refrigeration Supply on Conway Drive in Columbus, Miss. after a tornado struck the area Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle) - The Associated Press


A vacant commercial building along highway 50 in Columbus, Miss., sits in ruins after a tornado struck the area Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Witnesses say a tornado has destroyed or heavily damaged several businesses in the city's commercial district, toppling trees and blacking out power in the local area. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle) - The Associated Press


This photo shows damage at Lawrence Motors in Columbus, Miss., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, after a tornado hit in the city's downtown area. Witnesses say a tornado has destroyed or heavily damaged several businesses in the city's commercial district, toppling trees and blacking out power in the local area. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle) - The Associated Press


A rockslide tumbles down the side of a mountain at the scene of a mudslide on I-40 eastbound in Clyde, N.C., near the Tennessee and North Carolina border on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Homes, highways, parks and bridges throughout the South have been flooded or rendered out of commission, as the toll of days of drenching rains swelled waterways and pooled over saturated lands amid the threat of severe storms. (Calvin Mattheis/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP) - The Associated Press


Lafayette County authorities oversee a break in the Audubon Dam in the North Point subdivision in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Homes, highways, parks and bridges throughout the South have been flooded or put out of commission Saturday, as the toll of days of drenching rains swelled waterways and pooled over saturated lands amid a threat of severe storms. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) - The Associated Press


Workers climb along the edge of the mudslide on I-40 eastbound in Clyde, N.C., near the Tennessee and North Carolina border on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Travel east and west on I-40 will be shut down for approximately four to seven days, with the east and west bound lanes to open with only one lane for around six weeks as crews continue repairs. (Calvin Mattheis/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP) - The Associated Press


Fallen trees, rocks and mud can be seen at at the scene of a mudslide on I-40 eastbound in Clyde, N.C., near the Tennessee and North Carolina border on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Homes, highways, parks and bridges throughout the South have been flooded or rendered out of commission, as the toll of days of drenching rains swelled waterways and pooled over saturated lands amid the threat of severe storms. (Calvin Mattheis/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP) - The Associated Press


Workers pass by the scene of a mudslide on I-40 eastbound in Clyde, N.C., near the Tennessee and North Carolina border on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Travel east and west on I-40 will be shut down for approximately four to seven days, with the east and west bound lanes to open with only one lane for around six weeks as crews continue repairs. (Calvin Mattheis/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP) - The Associated Press


This photo shows damage after an overnight mudslide that destroyed a Subway restaurant on Signal Mountain Road in Chattanooga, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Subway manager Robbie Anderson said that the restaurant had closed at about 2:00 on Friday for safety after two trees fell from the hillside. (Doug Strickland/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP) - The Associated Press


Emergency workers survey damage after an overnight mudslide destroyed a Subway restaurant on Signal Mountain Road in Chattanooga, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Subway manager Robbie Anderson said that the restaurant had closed at about 2:00 on Friday for safety after two trees fell from the hillside. (Doug Strickland/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP) - The Associated Press


Middle Valley Plaza is seen flooded in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, after heavy rain overnight. Homes, highways, parks and bridges throughout the South have been flooded or rendered out of commission Saturday, as the toll of days of drenching rains swelled waterways and pooled over saturated lands amid the threat of severe storms. (Doug Strickland/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP) - The Associated Press