May 1, 2011

Mississippi Tornado Rated As EF-5: NWS

According to an analysis Friday by the National Weather Service, at least one of the tornadoes that killed hundreds across the South this week was an EF-5 storm.

The weather service said the tornado that hit Smithville, Mississippi on Wednesday was an EF-5 storm, reports the Associated Press (AP).  That is the highest rating given to assess a tornado's wind speed, and is based in part on damage caused by the storm.

The weather service said the half-mile wide Smithville tornado had peak winds of 205 mph and was on the ground for three miles, killing 14 and injuring 40.

It was the first EF-5 tornado to hit Mississippi since 1966, and the first EF-5 tornado in the U.S. since May 25, 2008.

Meteorologist Jim LaDue at the weather service's Storm Prediction Center said he expects "many more" of the tornadoes that killed at lest 297 people during Wednesday's brutal outbreak of severe weather will be rated EF-5.

The assessments are preliminary and are based on photos taken during the ground surveys and consultation with experts.

Meteorologist Mary Keiser at the weather service's Birmingham office said the tornado that tore across Bibb, Greene and Hale counties in northern Alabama were given a preliminary EF-3 rating.

"The tornado track was 71.3 miles long and the largest width "” the tornado at its widest point "” was one mile wide," Keiser said in a statement. "Its peak winds were 145 mph at the start and end times."

Surveys said the tornado was an EF-1 when it touched down in southwest Greene County near the Tombigbee River just west of Tishabee.

According to the weather service, it became an EF-3 northeast of Sawyerville and continued to track into Bibb County.

The weather service said the surveys are being further evaluated.

The Smithville EF-5 tornado destroyed 18 homes, which the weather service said were well built less than 10 years ago and bolted to their foundation.


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