Hattiesburg Tornado Upgraded to EF4 – Second Tornado Confirmed
The National Weather Service in Jackson, Mississippi sent out two survey teams this morning to assess the damage in Hattiesburg (Forrest County), as well as farther southwest through Lamar and Marion counties to determine tornado strength and whether or not it was a long track tornado that stayed on the ground across all three counties.
After being out in the field all day long, they have confirmed two separate tornadoes were produced from the same parent supercell. The first touched down in southwest Marion County and moved into Lamar County. This tornado was rated an EF2. The second tornado touched down in Lamar County after the previous one dissipated and moved into Forrest County, moving through West Hattiesburg, Hattiesburg and part of the campus of Southern Mississippi along the way. This tornado was preliminarily ranked an EF3 tornado, but after more significant damage was found around Oak Grove High School and in a housing area to the southwest in Lamar County, it was upgraded to an EF4 tornado late this afternoon, with peek wind gusts of 170 mph. For a summary of the severe weather event and more detailed damage information, check out the event summary from NWS-Jackson here: Pine Belt Tornado Event.
The University of Southern Mississippi campus remains in a state of emergency and according to their website there has been damage to the Jazz Station, Mannoni Performing Arts Center, Ogletree Alumni House and Elam Arms. The campus will be closed again on Tuesday. Classes are canceled Wednesday, but faculty and staff should come to work. Classes resume Thursday.
The National Weather Service has been tweeting several damage photos on their Twitter page (@NWSJacksonMS) of the damage they have been assessing. Below is a gallery of some of the photos.
Thanks to technological advances in radar, it is easier to determine if there is an actual tornado on the ground. Check out the radar images below and description from the National Weather Service office in Jackson, Mississippi.
“As the tornado moved into West Hattiesburg yesterday evening, we were receiving multiple ground truth reports confirming the tornado. However, thanks to recent dual-pol upgrades at area Doppler radar sites, we could also confirm the presence of tornadic debris. Here is a screen capture from the Mobile, AL radar at 5:13 pm as the tornado was moving through the West Hattiesburg/Oak Grove area. The more traditional radar products shown at the top (base reflectivity, storm relative velocity) were showing a severe thunderstorm, with strong and tight rotation at just over 7,000 feet above the ground. It was the dual-pol products on the bottom of this image that provided additional confirmation that this rotation must have been extending to the ground. The correlation coefficient (CC) product in the bottom-right helps to provide an idea of the consistency of the shape of the targets being reflected back to the radar. Higher values shows greater consistency (for instance, all rain), while lower values show less consistency (a mixture of targets). In this image we see an area of lower CC, which is actually an indication of tornadic debris of various shapes and sizes. In addition, the differential reflectivity product indicated values close to 0, which would also be expected with tornadic debris. Dual-pol continues to prove to be a powerful tool in our arsenal of technology enabling us to track severe weather.”
- Jennifer Watson
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