At least seven people have died after a tornado ripped through Mississippi, leaving a trail of destruction as it stretched through the Midwest.
The powerful twister tore through the region Friday night, causing widespread damage including downing power lines that left thousands in the dark.
Over 30 million people were under a tornado warning through the evening, and were being warned to brace for 135mph storms bringing golf ball-sized hail.
The devastation led authorities to warn those in its path are in a ‘life threatening situation’.
The National Weather Service confirmed the tornado touched down in the rural towns of Silver City and Rolling Fork at around 8.50pm, with them reporting severe destruction.
Search and rescue teams have been deployed to Sharkey County, Mississippi after a severe storm ripped through the community
Severe damage has been reported in the town of Rolling Fork, Mississippi after the tornado ripped through homes and businesses
A house in Sharkey County is seen torn apart on Friday night after the tornado blitzed its way across the area
Another home has its roof torn clean off following the devastating winds and lightning on Friday
A line of severe storms is moving across the South during evening and nighttime hours, especially across parts of the lower Mississippi Valley
The tornado has left a trail of damage at least 100 miles long, and is reportedly heading towards Alabama. More than 84,000 customers had lost power in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee as of Friday night, according to PowerOutage.us.
The National Weather Service issued an urgent alert after the tornado touched down, cautioning: ‘To protect your life, take cover now’.
‘You are in a life-threatening situation,’ it warned. ‘Flying debris may be deadly to those caught without shelter. Mobile homes will be destroyed. Considerable damage to homes, businesses, and vehicles is likely and complete destruction is possible.’
Search and rescue teams have been deployed to Sharkey and Humphreys counties in Mississippi, while first responders were forced to disperse injured victims to surrounding hospitals after the Sharkey-Issaquena Community Hospital saw significant damage.
Mississippi resident Corney Knight told the Associated Press that he, his wife and their 3-year-old daughter were at a relative’s home when the tornado hit, which he described as ‘eerily quiet’ just moments before.
He added the sky was dark but ‘you could see the direction from every transformer that blew’.
More than half a dozen emergency shelters have been set up throughout Mississippi after the twister ripped through homes and businesses.
Significant damage has been seen in the small town of Rolling Fork, Mississippi
Meanwhile cars were spotted trying to flee the area and others regrouped following the tornado
Some residents of the tiny town looked to be standing around in a daze following the carnage
The skies above Pope, Mississippi looked especially threatening on Friday night where flashes of lightning could be seen
Forecasters had been warning residents in parts of the Midwest and South on Friday that dangerously strong winds would be moving through the region
It was pitch black apart from a few power flashes in Anguilla, Mississippi as the tornado passed through
After the twister first tore through the small town of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, storm chaser Zachary Hill tweeted: ‘The damage in Rolling Fork, Mississippi is BAD. People are trapped, we need help here.’
Authorities are stressing the urgency of the situation, and Hill said police begged him to get the message out: ‘Major tornado damage, we need as many ambulances as possible and any help for search and rescue in this town.’
Rolling Fork mayor Eldridge Walker told WLBT-TV the tornado left him unable to leave his home after it caused significant damage and downed power lines leading to his property.
‘The west part of Rolling Fork is a residential area, and just a number of houses over there have been completely destroyed,’ added former Rolling Fork mayor Fred Miller.
‘Highway 61, where most of our businesses are, all of the businesses on 61 have been completely destroyed. People are trapped in a couple of the eateries, and people are trying to get them out now.’
A tornado about a mile wide appeared to be crossing Mississippi from Anguilla, through to Silver City, Belzoni and Rolling Fork
The National Weather Service has warned those in the tornado’s path are in a ‘life threatening situation’
Severe thunderstorms in the south on Friday night could produce tornadoes
The tornado has come after several states through the Midwest were battered by a severe weather front, with southern Missouri hit by nearly three inches of rain Thursday night.
Torrential rainfall in the area led to the deaths of two people after their car was swept away in the deluge. Authorities said six young adults were inside the vehicle, however only four escaped.
The body of Devon Holt, 20, of Grovespring, was found at 3:30am, and the body of Alexander Roman-Ranelli, 19, of Springfield, was recovered about six hours later, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Thomas Young said.
Reports indicate a suspected tornado also touched down early Friday in north Texas, damaging homes and downing trees and power lines.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned of potential tornados reaching the state into the weekend, as he urged residents to prepare for significant damage.
As the tornado continued to wreak havoc through the state, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said in a tweet: ‘Many in the MS Delta need your prayer and God’s protection tonight.
‘We have activated medical support — surging more ambulances and other emergency assets for those affected. Search and rescue is active.’
The storm system is being fueled by a dip in the jet stream that powered through California on Tuesday and Wednesday resulting in tornadoes there including one that hit the downtown LA area – the first in the area since 1953.
A red SUV is seen submerged in floodwaters on Old Ritchey Road in Granby, Missouri early on Friday.An elderly woman was recued from the car
A man stuck in a tree is rescued by swift water teams from Copper Canyon Fire and Medical District, and the Verde Valley Fire District in Camp Verde, Arizona. Several water rescues were reported across central and northern Arizona during the week
Torrential rains led to backyards being flooded in Bryant, Arkansas on Friday
Backyards appeared more like lakes following the enormous downpours
A view from this weather satellite shows just how broad the storm appears to be over the south