Path length: 72.75 miles

Width:  1510 yards

Fatalities:  14

Injuries:  120

Rating:  F4

County: Warren, Hinds, Yazoo, Holmes

Tornado Path

SPC Coordinates:

Start:  32.33 / -90.73    End: 33.10 / -90.10     

Corrected Coordinates Based on Analysis of Aerial Imagery, as well as all Reliable Damage Reports:

Start:  32.2440 / -90.7868    End: 33.0884 / -90.0691 

The last of the “big three” in the 1971 Delta Outbreak, this twister stayed in rural land across its 70-mile trek. It devastated the tiny community of Little Yazoo. As many as 14 people may have been killed by this relatively obscure tornado.

We are overwhelmingly grateful to our contributors for this summary. Only through their aid can the full story of this tornado and those affected be told. Fellow Tornado Talk writer Jennifer Narramore provided great aid in researching and compiling information. Thank you to The Yazoo Herald for giving us some of their newspaper material, as well as Melissa Selby for permission to show the photos taken by her grand-uncle. Also thank you to Dawn Davis for attempting to help us acquire more information.

This is the free version of this summary. There is a PREMIUM version as well that shows more exclusive photos.  If you are a paid member of Tornado Talk, click here to read summary.  Learn about becoming a member here!  


This tornado began to form at approximately 5:02 pm CST, around 3.7 miles east of Antioch. The initially broad and diffuse circulation brushed across County Road 27 with a diameter of roughly 1,050 yards (0.60 miles). Aerial photos showed many trees uprooted and roofing loss to a house and outbuilding.

The next three miles saw the vortex rapidly intensify. At least a half dozen scattered dwellings near Bovina Cut-Off and Duncan Roads were total losses. Based on what little information is known, one of these was the location of two fatalities. Around 5:07 pm CST, 3.6 miles south of Bovina, the small Clyde family home was swept clean above the cinder block foundation. Remnants of the structure, and the fatally injured Fred and Lucille Clyde, were left on the other side of Duncan Road. According to the February 1971 Storm Data Publication, their son was also wounded.

“It all happened so fast, it was over before we knew what was happening,” A. G. Rodrig stated. Per the February 22, 1971 edition of the Birmingham Post-Herald, he and his daughter got down on the floor of their home when they noticed a black funnel cloud approaching. It’s unknown what damage they had, only that they were neighbors of the Clydes.

For five miles, the track arced across unpopulated wilderness along the Big Black River. A width was attained of 1,500 yards (0.85 miles). The violence may also have peaked here, as a razor-thin core of total destruction completely shredded across groves of trees, leaving stunted trunks felled in strikingly convergent patterns. Faint cycloidal marks from stubble were left in fields.

The twister crossed Interstate 20, about 3.7 miles ENE of Bovina. Immediately beyond on Henry Lake Road, two residences and four chicken houses were destroyed. The latter were entirely razed from their foundations. One more home on Freetown Road was totaled before the vortex somewhat weakened and moved beyond inhabited land.

The next 18 miles of the path saw no structures directly hit. The tornado wound deep through forested wilderness. It crossed the Big Black River into Hinds County and passed back again into Warren County before moving into Yazoo County. Very coarse aerial imagery taken in the months and years after the event was analyzed to determine this track. While treefall may have persisted, the tornado was not as significant in those 18 miles as it had been near Bovina.

About 5.5 miles WSW of Bentonia, the damage swath began to be far more apparent. A November 1971 color infrared aerial photo from the USGS showed where areas of woods were destroyed. The worst sections were near Wilson Road, Highway 433, and Terrell Road, where almost all trees were razed. We were able to deduce that a handful of residences were destroyed.

There were eight fatalities in this area, four of which were 3.7 miles west of Bentonia along Highway 433. The names are Garnett Brown, 71; William Brown, 16; Clemmie Thornton, 74; and Pearlena Thornton, 70. Per an April 26, 1971 edition of the Clarion-Ledger, Clemmie had been perforated by a fence post and fought for two months at the University Hospital in Jackson before succumbing to injuries. Unfortunately, no other information was found relating to this portion of the path.

The location of the other deaths is more uncertain. For two of them, newspapers mentioned Terrell Place, which could not be found and may no longer exist. The most probable spot was along Terrell Road, 2.9 miles NW of Bentonia. Pruitt Berry, 64, was killed when his home was reduced to rubble. The adjacent residence of Kelly Berry was swept cleanly away with his grandson inside. Tragically, the body of four-year-old Jeffery Holmes was found the following morning in a pond some distance away. Kelly and his wife had broken bones, and their daughter’s face was severely lacerated and required plastic surgery. Two more in the overall family, including Pruitt’s wife, were hospitalized.

Destruction at the Berry residences. Note that the right hand newspaper caption is incorrect, as it was not Kelly’s son but his grandson that was killed.

The final unknown deaths were discovered in the February 25, 1971 edition of The Delta Democrat Times. They compiled and released a tally from funeral homes of tornado fatalities and the locations the victims were from. Jessie Shelton and Mrs. Bellmon Williams were both said to have been killed in the vicinity of Bentonia. No other information on these two has been found. It is worth noting that there were some racial disparities in the level of documentation, which makes confidence in fatality numbers lower than usual.

Much more is known about the nature of the storm after it crossed Old Highway 49. Two days later on February 23, NASA Earth Resources Laboratory captured remarkably high-quality, vertical aerial photos of the path from 1.6 miles SSW to 1.8 miles NE of Little Yazoo. We were able to acquire this imagery through the USGS, and thus can explain what transpired here in much greater detail.

The vortex spun across two more groves of trees, most of which were snapped or uprooted. Part of the roof of a home was removed on Anding Oil City Road, and the Old Concord M. B. Church received minor damage. In a clearing, the tornado encountered a sizable property between Anding Oil City Road and Highway 49. A house lost its roof and a few walls, and some outbuildings were destroyed. Behind these structures were several dozen old and most likely unserviceable pickup trucks, cars, and a bus. The center passed through this spot, scattering the heavy objects significant distances. Some were mangled, and what appeared to be the cargo bed of a pickup truck was blown downwind roughly 250 yards. Large trees were pulled out of the ground and displaced up to five yards.

Two more residences were irreparably harmed before the vortex slammed into Central Baptist Church. The sanctuary was razed, and the roof was missing from the rest of the building. Charles Aaron Brumfield, 53, lost his life here. He was a deacon, treasurer of the church, farmer, and World War II veteran. Charles left behind his wife, two daughters, and six siblings. Central Baptist was rebuilt in the same spot and opened its doors within a year.

A look at Central Baptist Church after the tornado and rebuilt one year later.

The parsonage belonging to the church was swept away. The next-door neighbors to the north were W. A. Keene and his family. His wife noticed the noise created by the approaching funnel. In an Associated Press (AP) piece in a March 1, 1971 edition of the Sun Herald, Keene stated, “I told everybody to get in the car, and just as we did, the danged thing started pushing us up the road… I never even got the car started. Finally it turned the car over, but we all managed to get out.”

A photo provided by The Yazoo Herald of W.A. Keene in front of his house.

While the Keene family home was left standing, the same could not be said for the two-story Bentonia Academy across the road. Only some debris was left on the concrete slab.

The heart of the Little Yazoo community is the intersection of Anding Oil City Road/Dover Road and Highway 49. Around 5:50 pm CST, the 1,510-yard (0.86 mile) wide tornado completely destroyed several residences and businesses. The first were those belonging to the Creels.

Leave? No we didn’t leave. You can’t run from anything like that. Where would you run to?

Wayne Creel had only recently returned home from National Guard training. Two days before on Friday, he married his “high school sweetheart.” They were spending their first evening in their new home with some family. Their story is told in the March 1, 1971 edition of the Sun Herald.

“We had just moved our new furniture in. We were in there hanging curtains. My brother-in-law, his wife and daughter were visiting. They were leaving, standing at the door kidding us about the first night in the house and all.”

“My brother-in-law opened the door and we heard the noise. I threw my wife on the bed and fell on top of her. An inside wall fell on us. That little wall was the only thing that saved us.”

Neither Wayne nor any of his family was killed. A follow-up AP piece in the Sun Herald one year later reconnected with him. He and his wife were living in the same spot in a government-provided trailer. They still had plans to build a new house.

Wayne Creel sitting in the remains of his house.

On the north side of the property was the Creel Building and Supply Company, owned by Henry Creel, Wayne’s father. The lumber yard and business were reduced to a jumbled mess of wood and appliances. According to the February 17, 1972 edition of The Yazoo Herald, the store was rebuilt by mid-summer.

A look at Creel Building and Supply Company after the tornado and one year later.

It was the most horrible experience my children and I have ever been through. I hope we never go through anything like it again.

Hilton’s Garage at the southeastern corner of the intersection was blown apart, as was J.W. Bradshaw grocery next to the Creel buildings. Across the road on the northwest side was Bob Williams grocery and service station. Present was the owner, Bob Williams; wife Sally; and their children, 15-year-old Joel and 13-year-old Mary.

A photo provided by The Yazoo Herald showing destruction in Little Yazoo. J.W. Bradshaw grocery was located at center.

According to the one-year-later piece from The Yazoo Herald, customers in the store scattered as the threat drew nearer. Bob ran for their car, thinking he could drive his family to safety. It was far too late for that. Even as he got inside the vehicle, the wind began to rise. Sally quickly directed the kids into a store refrigerator box, with her following.

The store completely collapsed, with the mass of debris shifting several feet. Outside, the car Bob was in overturned. Sally was injured by flying debris, but otherwise, the family made it out in relatively good condition. By May, they had rebuilt and reopened under the name “Bob and Sally’s Little Yazoo Grocery.” As of November 2022, Little Yazoo Grocery remains a fixture of the rural community.

Bob Williams in front of his overturned car.

The rebuilt Bob and Sally’s Little Yazoo Grocery one year later.

To the west on Dover Road, Mr. and Mrs. Shaffer and their 13-year-old son Roosevelt huddled in a kitchen as their house collapsed. All of them survived. Their next-door neighbors Albert Reed, 59, and his sister Mary Reed, 70, lived in a mobile home. A trail of flattened low-lying vegetation indicated that the structure was dragged or bounced more than 150 yards into a grove, with only small pieces of rubble scattered amongst the trees. Both Reeds were killed.

A photo from The Yazoo Herald of the Shaffer family.

The property next to that of the Reeds contained a 182-foot tall microwave tower belonging to the American Telephone and Telegraph Long Lines Department. All but the bottom quarter of the metal skeleton was bent over and crumpled. The day after, a temporary tower was quickly installed. This was eventually exchanged for a $300K replacement (equivalent to $2.1 million in 2022).

The destroyed microwave tower. Under construction at left is the temporary replacement.

There was one more fatality in Little Yazoo for which the location is unknown. Benjamin O’Neal Hagger, 5, is known to have died somewhere within the community due to the tornado.

Only sporadic residences were encountered in the mile and a half after the intersection. The roof of one house was ripped off, and a mobile home was blown 35 yards into the woods. High-resolution aerial imagery from two days later showed at least one bulldozer and other vehicles that had cleared a large path through the trees to the remains. Given the effort involved at an isolated property less than 48 hours after the strike, it’s possible this was the site of a fatality we couldn’t identify the location of.

The next 19 miles of the path through central and northern Yazoo County are a mystery. Based on information from a piece in The Yazoo Herald, two houses were destroyed about 2-3 miles NE of Little Yazoo. According to a Red Cross survey list of property owners in the February 25th, 1971 Yazoo Herald, at least 72 residences were damaged or destroyed across the general communities of Roadside, Benton, and Midway. The track was likely still continuous based on both analysis of coarse USGS aerial photos from late 1971-1974 and a few property owners that could be plotted.

Almost everything known regarding this tornado in Holmes County comes from a February 25, 1971 edition of the Holmes County Herald. The first noted property hit was that of the Spells in the Brozville community, which may have been located along Spell Road about 8 miles SW of Lexington. Their barn was demolished, with wooden shrapnel from it causing some exterior damage to their home. Many trees in the area were uprooted and “twisted off.”

Some distance later, two houses lost significant portions of their roofs. A tree crashed into Evans Grocery, with two more farm buildings lost. The last documented impact was some distance to the north, where a residence was heavily damaged after “something came down right on top of the roof.” The tornado finally dissipated at approximately 6:20 pm CST, around 1.9 miles SW of Lexington.

In total, the twister tracked 72.75 miles and lasted roughly one hour and 18 minutes. Fourteen people were killed, and 120 were injured. It destroyed an estimated 52 residences and caused some level of damage to another 100. Costs from the tornado reached $2 million.

A clip provided by The Yazoo Herald of part of their February 25, 1971 paper.

In the face of this disaster, Little Yazoo was resilient. Most of the residents stayed to rebuild, as well as the few existing businesses in the area. While full recovery took years, much of the work was able to be done throughout the rest of 1971.

On March 27, both an auction and a concert by several country music stars were held in Yazoo City, with all proceeds going to the victims. Several local relief organizations, both government and not, were heavily involved in supplying food, housing, and cleanup.

An unexpected source of aid came from a middle-school class in Haddon Heights, New Jersey. According to the July 8, 1971 edition of The Yazoo Herald, they learned about the disaster through the media and their teacher (who was from Yazoo City). The children collected clothes, sold newspapers, and went house to house to raise money. At the recommendation of local officials, the monetary donations were given to the Berrys, who lost two family members.

Donations from the middle-school class being presented to the Berry family.

A 1988 piece in The Yazoo Herald noted the impact of Joel Netherland and his radio station. “Yazooans tuned into the station and heard the devastation of Mother Nature – a youth pulled from a pond, homes demolished, crops ruined.” Per the article, his coverage of Little Yazoo put WJNS “on the map.” For it, they were honored with the first Class A FM Station Mississippi Broadcasters Association Community Service Award.

Ending this summary is an Op-Ed published in The Yazoo Herald’s February 25, 1971 paper. The quoted piece, written by Louisiana State University senior and news editor of Daily Reveille Beth Langston, is shown below.

“Little Yazoo was never exactly what you could call a town.

A tiny cluster of a dozen or so houses and stores… it would seem it existed mainly as an afterthought to transient motorists who forgot to get gas at the last stop up the road.

But for the people who lived there before Sunday night’s devastating tornado, Little Yazoo was very much a community.

The houses and trailers, now demolished or just plain gone, were homes for families, whose fathers worked in garages or grocery stores along Highway 49 and in the industrial plants in Yazoo and Flora. Some of the fathers worked the land also.

Something of a crossroads for isolated country villages in every direction, Little Yazoo had a church and a school and hopes for its children – just like any community many times larger.

Peculiar images seem to collect in the mind of one who has never before witnessed the awesome effects of a tornado.

One remembers the tiny, sad and somehow embarrassing details, long after the initial impact of the storm’s destruction has been reported, broken down into statistics and dollar signs and written into history.

One recalls the face of somebody’s son, smiling from beneath the shattered glass of a twisted picture frame… or bits of rumpled clothing scattered across a backyard… or among the branches of the trees along the roadside. The trees glistening like Christmas trees with scraps of tin wrapped and impaled against their branches.

One notices the people whose carpets, and books and underwear lie ruined amid mountains of mud and debris. People whose most personal belongings have been rudely snatched up by an uncaring nature and flung out along the ground for any passerby to see. The people don’t seem to realize they don’t know yet where they’ll be living for the next few months… or how they’ll clothe their children… or where they’ll send them to school.

One realizes that fear does not show itself in the faces of these people. They stare quietly, blankly ahead and talk of what they can salvage and “how good the Lord was” to save them.

They are strong people and one cannot help feeling that hardship is not a stranger to them. The men gather in little groups to figure how they’ll manage to rebuild the village; and the women make strong coffee and try to quell the anxieties of the little children, who don’t understand exactly why things aren’t the same as usual.

Soon helicopters whirr overhead. Teams of hardhats organize and begin to attack the scattered remains. Power lines snake the ground and wind around posts and tree trunks.

The governor comes by to shake hands and survey the damage. Traffic is detoured, but a steady stream of travelers and the curious manage to weave through a conglomeration of highway patrol cars, tow trucks and debris.

Clothing and food are collected for the suffering. Hospitals find extra beds for the injured, politicians cry “disaster area” and the dead are buried and mourned.

One soon notices that the tornado is spoken of in the past tense. People care, but after a while, they tend to forget. But the grueling task of rebuilding a town goes on.

And the dozen or so families who lived and worked and made homes for themselves in Little Yazoo and surrounding areas continue to hope and plan and build.”

In Loving Memory

Near Bovina: 

Fred Clyde

Lucille Clyde

Near Bentonia/approaching Little Yazoo:

Pruitt Berry, 64

Garnett Brown, 71

William Brown, 16

Jeffery Holmes, 4

Jessie Shelton

Clemmie Thornton, 74

Pearlena Thornton, 70

Mrs. Bellmon Williams 

In Little Yazoo:

Charles Aaron Brumfield, 53

Benjamin Hagger, 5

Albert Reed, 59

Mary Reed, 70


We gathered information for this event from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) and National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) databases, as well as the February 1971 Storm Data Publication (SDP), Significant Tornadoes, 1680-1991 by Thomas Grazulis, Natural Disaster Survey Report: Mississippi Delta Tornadoes of February 21, 1971, and our detailed analysis of all available resources and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • The SPC lists a path length of 65.2 miles.
  • The SDP and Survey Report list a path length of 69 miles.
  • Grazulis lists a path length of 70 miles.
  • Detailed analysis of the damage indicates a total track length, accounting for all twists and turns, of 72.75 miles. The corrected track also briefly passes through far western Hinds County, which is not listed by other sources.

    Path Width:

    • The SPC lists a maximum width of 10 yards.
    • The NCDC lists a maximum width of 33 yards.
    • Grazulis lists a maximum width of 800 yards (0.45 miles).
    • The Survey Report describes taking one measurement along a road perpendicular to the track of 0.60 miles, or 1,056 yards.
    • The SDP does not list a maximum width.
    • Detailed analysis of the damage (including aerial imagery) indicates a maximum width of 1,510 yards (0.86 miles).


      • The SPC/NCDC/Grazulis list 13 fatalities.
      • The SDP lists 12 fatalities.
      • Our research found the possibility of 14 total fatalities.


        • The SPC/NCDC list 182 injuries.
        • Grazulis lists 200 injuries.
        • Newspaper reports and Red Cross tallies provide a wide range of possible injury totals. The latter source includes exact county numbers. While we give an injury tally of 120, this is a rough estimation and not precise. We believe the 182 number is too high to be feasible because of the low population hit. It’s possible that hospitalizations within the overall counties were included in that figure, inflating the number of seriously injured transferred from other overwhelmed regions.


          • The NCDC gives a time of occurrence from 5:06 pm CST to 6:05 pm CST.
          • The SDP/Survey Report give a time of occurrence from 5:06 pm CST to 6:16 pm CST.
          • Analysis of available resources gives a time of occurrence from 5:02 pm CST to approximately 6:20 pm CST.

            Monetary Cost:

            • There are no monetary costs listed in official databases. The February 17, 1972 edition of The Yazoo Herald stated, “Federal officials estimated shortly after the storm that between $1.5 and $2 million damage had been done in Yazoo County.” After factoring in the unknown but likely much lesser costs from Warren and Holmes Counties, $2 million was considered the most reasonable amount.


              The Storm Prediction Center

              February 1971 Storm Data Publication

              Grazulis, T.P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes, 1680-1991. St. Johnsbury, Vt: The Tornado Project Of Environmental Films. Page 1121.

              NCDC Storm Events Database Entry-Warren County

              NCDC Storm Events Database Entry-Yazoo County

              NCDC Storm Events Database Entry-Holmes County

              A summary of activities of the Earth Resources Laboratory at the Mississippi Test Facility during 1971

              Google Earth


              Find a Grave



              Jennifer Narramore

              Melissa Selby

              The Yazoo Herald

              “Mississippi Delta Tornadoes of February 21, 1971; a Report to the Administrator.” n.d. Repository.library.noaa.gov.

              “The Delta Democrat-Times 25 Feb 1971, Page 19.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Delta Democrat-Times 24 Feb 1971, Page 13.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “East Carroll Delta News 04 Mar 1971, Page 7.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 25 Feb 1971, Page 2.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “Clarion-Ledger 23 Feb 1971, Page 4.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 25 Feb 1971, Page 27.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 25 Feb 1971, Page 24.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 25 Feb 1971, Page 3.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “Clarion-Ledger 26 Apr 1971, Page 8.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 17 Feb 1972, Page 1.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 29 Mar 2008, Page Z06.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 22 Jun 1972, Page 23.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 20 May 1971, Page 8.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “Sun Herald 01 Mar 1971, Page 28.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 25 Feb 1971, Page 23.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 18 Feb 1971, Page 8.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “Sun Herald 21 Feb 1972, Page 13.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “Clarion-Ledger 28 Feb 1971, Page 68.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “Clarion-Ledger 23 Feb 1971, Page 3.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 20 Mar 1982, Page 11.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 10 Feb 1972, Page 8.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 03 Feb 1972, Page 2.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “East Carroll Delta News 04 Mar 1971, Page 7.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “Hattiesburg American 23 Feb 1971, Page 9.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 17 Feb 1972, Page 8.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 25 Feb 1971, Page 6.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 11 Mar 1971, Page 1.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 25 Feb 1971, Page 21.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “Clarion-Ledger 23 Feb 1971, Page 2.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Delta Democrat-Times 24 Feb 1971, Page 8.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “Birmingham Post-Herald 22 Feb 1971, Page 2.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Delta Democrat-Times 24 Feb 1971, Page 16.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “Clarion-Ledger 23 Feb 1971, Page 1.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 01 Apr 1971, Page 5.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “Clarion-Ledger 25 Mar 1971, Page 27.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 08 Apr 1971, Page 16.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 08 Jul 1971, Page 15.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 15 Jun 1988, Page 4.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 25 Feb 1971, Page 27.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

              “The Yazoo Herald 04 Mar 1971, Page 1.” n.d. Newspapers.com.

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