A tornado struck parts of Mississippi on Friday, causing major damage to at least one community and trapping people in buildings, officials said.
No fatalities had immediately been reported. There was damage in Rolling Fork, population 1,800 and Silver City, a community of around 220, officials said.
“It appears from the damage that I’ve been able to assess at this point, it was a large tornado — and it has destroyed the city of Rolling Fork,” Mayor Eldridge Walker told NBC affiliate WLBT of Jackson by phone.
The National Weather Service warned of a confirmed tornado on the ground headed towards Rolling Fork around 8:05 p.m.
A “tornado emergency,” a term used when there is a severe threat to life and reliable sources have confirmed a tornado, had been issued for it and other areas.
The weather service later said there had been tornado damage in Rolling Fork, 60 miles northwest of Jackson, and in Silver City, northeast of Rolling Fork.
In the Silver City area, all Humphreys County sheriff’s deputies were responding and jail personnel were tasked with assisting dispatch and asking for aid.
“We are in desperate need of assistance with search and rescue,” Randy Taylor, a corrections officer with the sheriff’s office, told WLBT. “People are trapped.”
The state was sending search-and-rescue resources and other help to the area, Malary White, spokesperson for Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has also been alerted and is monitoring the situation, she said.
“Many in the MS Delta need your prayer and God’s protection tonight,” Gov. Tate Reeves tweeted.
He said the state has activated medical support and was surging ambulances to where they are needed.
Police in Amory, Mississippi, a city of around 6,600 not far from the Alabama border, pleaded with people to stay home so first responders could deal with effects from the weather.
“Please be safe and stay in a secure location instead of driving through Amory!” the department said in a Facebook post.
The weather service in Birmingham said that a tornado had occurred nearby, but it was not clear if one struck the city itself.
A tornado emergency is a term used when there is a severe threat to life, catastrophic damage and when reliable sources have confirmed a tornado, according to the weather service. It began to be used in 1999 when a tornado was headed towards Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The tornado in Mississippi occurred as very buoyant air and strong low-level and upper-level shear was forecast to increase the risk of severe storms in the area, according to the weather service.
By early Saturday, tornado watches remained in parts of eastern Mississippi and in northern Alabama, according to the weather service. Earlier, those watches covered almost all of Mississippi.
Earlier Friday in Texas, two EF1 tornadoes with 100 mph winds struck in Parker County, west of Fort Worth, around 5 a.m., the weather service said. Five people were injured, NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reported.