Photos and commentary from the Mississippi Tornadoes April 2011

Author: Eston Spain, Emergency Planning Associate, IEM

The following photos were taken during a recent deployment to Mississippi. IEM team members ventured into the storm damaged areas and often meeting with the people who were directly affected by the twisters.  The pictures below capture some of the tornado’s fury and devastating power in what the storms of late April brought to Mississippi and left in their wake.

One of the first things we noticed as we entered the storm ravaged counties was the trees. At first the drive seemed scenic and relaxing as we headed south on the Natchez Trace Parkway…

Natchez Trace in Choctaw County, MS
Natchez Trace in Choctaw County, missed by the recent tornadoes.

Tornadoes had crossed this part of the Natchez Trace Parkway. The forests along the parkway were virtually obliterated by the force of the winds and flying debris.

Tornado damage on Natchez Trace in Mississippi

More tornado damage on Natchez Trace in Mississippi

The path of the tornadoes took it across Choctaw County, along the Natchez Trace. Everywhere you looked, in all directions, was devastation. So many counties, so many homes, so many lives upended by the series of tornadoes and severe storms.

The lower part of Mississippi wasn’t spared either as the tornadoes sliced their way diagonally across the state. The pictures below were taken in a little town called Leakesville, in Greene County, MS, just southeast of Hattiesburg, MS.

In the first picture, you see a house blown into a tree. Like a piece of wood being fed into a table saw, the roof of the appears as if the tree was cutting its way through what remains of the structure. The house stood to the right of the tree.

House collapsed into tree from tornado, Leakesville, MS.

This picture below, also from Leakesville, shows a THU (temporary housing unit), recently installed behind what’s left of one family’s home. Hit by the tornado. The flattened rubble in the center was the master bedroom.  The family huddled in the hallway, in the center of the house as it came down around them, while the young mother shielded her 13 month old daughter from the collapsing walls and roof. All survived.

Mobile home collapsed from tornado in Mississippi

All throughout the tornado’s wake lay destruction, but it’s what happened to the trees. When you stand among the battered and splintered remains of a forest you can’t help but think of the power that an EF 4 or 5 tornado can wield. You see the footage on television of tornadoes tearing up farm houses in the prairies, but when you see it up close, what a tornado can do to a forest, oaks snapped in two, half way up the tree, mass amounts of timber lay wasted by the power of wind, your jaw drops and your mouth is agape, words fail to form.

Tree damage from tornados in Mississippi

But if tornadoes can do this kind of damage to solid healthy trees, jut think of what happens to structure that are less rigid and sound, like a mobile home, as the next pictures reflect.

The remains of a mobile home.

The woman who lived there amazingly survived the storm, received a new THU and swore that this would be her last trailer.

In this picture, an electrical fire finished off what the tornado left behind

…And still more obliterated trees. That’s what sticks out most about the recent deployment to Mississippi. There were many shattered lives and homes, but what sticks out most as a reminder of how powerful tornadoes can be are the trees.

Obliterated trees from tornados

These pictures represent parts of Mississippi after the results of a series of tornadoes. The pictures were taken a couple weeks after wards, but it will take them many, many years for the trees and forests to grow tall and strong again. It will also take the communities some time to recover from these storms, hopefully in a much shorter time than the trees.