Path length: 23.6 miles
Width: 300 yards
County: Jones, Wayne
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SPC coordinates: Start: 31.70 / -89.17 End: 31.80 / -88.78
Corrected Coordinates based on damage reports:
31.691894/-89.171053 End: 31.746064/-88.779946
Note: Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.
Six tornadoes occurred across parts of Mississippi on January 9, 1972. One of the strongest, later rated F3, crossed through parts of Jones and Wayne Counties and the city of Laurel.
Per the Storm Data Publication, the tornado “touched down four times from northwest edge of Laurel’s city limits to the northeast edge”. Damage occurred from the first “touchdown”, West of Laurel Highway off Highway 84 to a department store building and to a supermarket.
It set down the second time in the middle of a practice field behind and west of R. H. Watkins High School. “It dug a hole in the center of the field, hit the west wall of the school building and caused an estimated $600,000 to $700,000 in damages.”
After lifting briefly, the tornado touched down again for the third time and caused significant damage to a residential area near Lamar Elementary School. It dropped for the fourth time on First Avenue in another residential area.
From here the tornado skipped into Wayne County into a wooded area. Not much information on damage here.
There were 12 reported injuries, all minor.
Civil Defense reported 15 homes totally destroyed, and moderate damage to 100 others. The Laurel Mayor stated that 200-250 trees were uprooted, some landing on homes. Mobile homes, cars and trucks were overturned.
There is a big discrepancy on the path length. First of all, based on the verbiage in the Storm Data entry, this was NOT a continuous path. The narrative states the Civil Defense reported, “a distance from first touchdown to last damage in Laurel at 3 miles.” They state the full path through both counties was 13 miles. Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes has a path of 18 miles. The SPC has a path of 23.6 miles.
We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the January 1972 Storm Data Publication and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:
- SPC/NCDC have a 23.6 mile path.
- Grazulis has a length at 18 miles.
- Storm Data has a path length at 13 miles.
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