Tornado tracks map via US Tornadoes

The Mississippi Delta Tornado Outbreak occurred February 21-22, 1971. There was a total of 19 tornadoes across 9 states.  123 people were killed with most of those occurring on the 21st. Nearly 1600 injuries were reported.  

Three significant tornadoes occurred on the 21st.  Two were given an F4 rating and 1 was rated F5.  

The path lengths documented for each violent tornado are extremely long. There is some question on whether or not we are looking at 3 separate long track tornadoes OR if we are dealing with a family of tornadoes.  Those differences will be highlighted.  

Sources for this summary:

  • SPC/NCDC
  • 1971 Storm Data Publication
  • Thomas Grazulis:  Significant Tornadoes
  • Natural Disaster Survey Report from NOAA – July 1971
  • US Tornadoes

Tornado #1:  Delhi, LA to Schlater, MS

This was the first major tornado to occur on this day.  Per the SPC, the tornado was given a rating of F5.  It traveled 109.2 miles and had a max width of 500 yards.  There were 510 injuries and 47 fatalities associated with this tornado.  

In his entry in Significant Tornadoes, Thomas Grazulis documents this tornado as an F4 with a path length of 110 miles but denotes this was probably a family of tornadoes.  The max width is listed at 600 yards and lists 400 injuries.  

The Storm Data summary has a path length of 35 miles in LA and 75 miles in MS.  Path width in LA of 440 to 660 yards.  They list a total of 45 fatalities in both states and the injury list is incomplete.

The NOAA Natural Disaster Survey Report notes a continuous path of 102 miles.

The map is based on the coordinates provided in the SPC Data (Start:  32.39 / -91.47   End:  33.63 / -90.35).  Communities receiving tremendous damage/fatalities are marked.

Counties/Parishes in the path:  

Louisiana:  Madison and East Carroll Parishes

Mississippi:  Issaquena, Sharkey, Washington, Sunflower, and LeFlore Counties in MS.

Tornado Path

Narratives from the February 1971 Storm Data Publication

Additional information from Significant Tornadoes 

(1680-1991)

  • Several small homes were leveled in Waverly, LA.  10 people in one family were killed.  Five of the bodies were blown into swamps and bayous, and were not found for up to several weeks.
  • Seven homes and two trailers were destroyed near the Melbourne community.
  • The tornado weakened as it crossed the Mississippi River into Issaquena County.  It either strengthened again in Northern Sharkey County or formed as a new tornado.
  • Seven people were killed near Camena and two died west of Isola.
  • In Sunflower County, Inverness was completely leveled. 125 homes and 40 other buildings were destroyed.  There were 21 deaths and over 2oo injuries in Inverness.
  • Homes were leveled in Moorhead and 4 people were killed.

Tornado #2:  Fitler to Oxford in Mississippi

This was the second major tornado to occur on this day.  Per the SPC, the tornado was given a rating of F4.  It traveled 202.1 miles and had a max width of 100 yards.  There were 795 injuries and 58 fatalities associated with this tornado.  

In his entry in Significant Tornadoes, Thomas Grazulis documents this tornado as an F4 with a path length of 165 miles but denotes this was probably a family of tornadoes.  The max width is listed at 800 yards and lists 700 injuries.  

The Storm Data summary has a path length of 198 miles in MS.  They do mention though that the tornado lifted near Abbeville, MS and then touched down again in Marshall and Benton Counties and then state the path went into parts of TN.  The TN portion of the summary does not have a path length.  No path width is listed.  They list a total of 58 fatalities and the injury list is incomplete.

Grazulis believes this TN tornado was a separate event due to the fact that there was a one-hour time difference in just a few miles of when the damage was reported.

The NOAA Natural Disaster Survey Report notes a continuous path of 159 miles and states the tornado ended east of Abbeville, MS.

Based on all of that data, it can be deduced that the tornado path was not a continuous path over 200 miles and that the TN portion was a separate event.  

The map is based on the coordinates provided in the SPC Data (Start:  32.70 / -91.02    End:  35.03 / -88.92).  Communities receiving tremendous damage/fatalities are marked.

Counties in the path (based on Grazulis):  

Mississippi:  Issaquena, Sharkey, Humphreys, Leflore, Grenada, Tallahatchie, Yalabusha, Lafayette 

The SPC also has Marshall, Benton and Tippah Counties (MS) in the path as well as Hardeman (TN).

Tornado Path

Narratives from the February 1971 Storm Data Publication

Additional information from Significant Tornadoes 

(1680-1991)

  • In Sharkey County, the Evanna Plantation was destroyed south of Cary, with 14 deaths in this area.
  • Seven people were killed in Gooden Lake and two at Mound Lake Plantation (Humphreys County)
  • Many small homes were swept away, killing entire families in LeFlore County.
  • Twenty-one people died at Pugh city, two at Swiftown, six at Morgan City, two near Greenwood and four people died at Money. 
  • From there to Oxford, the damage was less severe and the path was not continuous.  

Tornado #3:  Bovina to Lexington in Mississippi

This was the third major tornado to occur on this day.  Per the SPC, the tornado was given a rating of F4.  It traveled 65.2 miles and had a max width of 10 yards (this is obviously not corrected but is listed in this record as 10 yards).  There were 182 injuries and 13 fatalities associated with this tornado.  

In his entry in Significant Tornadoes, Thomas Grazulis documents this tornado as an F4 with a path length of 70 miles.  The max width is listed at 800 yards and lists 200 injuries.  

The Storm Data summary has a path length of 69 miles.  No path width is listed and no injuries are listed.  They note 12 fatalities.   

The NOAA Natural Disaster Survey Report notes a continuous path of 69 miles.  

The map is based on the coordinates provided in the SPC Data. (Start:  32.33 / -90.73   End:  33.10 / -90.10).   Communities receiving tremendous damage/fatalities are marked.

Counties in the path:  

Mississippi:  Warren, Yazoo, Holmes

Tornado Path

Narratives from the February 1971 Storm Data Publication

Additional information from Significant Tornadoes 

(1680-1991)

  • Between Little Yazoo and Benton, a dozen homes were leveled and 11 more people were killed.
  • The tornado skipped through very rural territory for the rest of its path.

Images Extracted from the NOAA Natural Disaster Survey Report

Inverness, MS
Cotton Gin destroyed at Nitta Yuma, MS (Sharkey County)

Newspaper Clippings

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