• Welcome to TalkWeather!
    We would love for you to become a part of our community.
    Take a moment to look around and join the discussion.
    CLICK HERE TO JOIN TALKWEATHER

On this date in 1971: The Deadly Mississippi Delta Tornadoes (1 Viewer)


PerryW

Member
Honorary Meteorologist
Messages
144
Location
Wilsonville, Oregon
Special Affiliations
SKYWARN® Volunteer


On this day 46 years ago (Sunday February 21, 1971) , a devastating tornado outbreak struck portions of the lower Mississippi Valley. Over 120 lives were lost, 118 of them dying in three violent, long track tornadoes that tore a path across western and northern Mississippi, southern Tennessee, and northeastern Louisiana.

Known as the 1971 Missssippi Delta Tornadoes, they were spawned by a very intense storm system that also produced blizzard conditions in western Oklahoma and central/ western Kansas. Snow depths of 2 to 3 feet occurred in northwestern Oklahoma

The three primary killer tornadoes began late that balmy Sunday afternoon as temperatures soared to 80 and dewpoints near 70 in the warm, unstable air mass south of a warm front across Mississippi......and just ahead of the vigorous "triple point" low pressure center that tracked from central Texas to near Monroe, Louisiana then toward Memphis.

Morning Surface Chart, Sunday February 21, 1971



Surface Map at 2100z (4 PM CST) as killer tornadoes were on the ground


Late Afternoon 500 mb upper air chart


The first killer tornado touched down at 3:50 PM CST near Delhi, Louisiana. 11 died in Louisiana then another 36 in western Mississippi......as Delta City and Inverness were devastated. This monster was rated an F5, and is both the only F5 tornado to ever occur in Louisiana and the only February F-5 tornado of record. As this tornado churned northeastward, two other violent tornadoes touched down in western Mississippi.

A second vicious killer tornado touched down at 5 pm CST and tore a 500 yard wide path from Cary, Mississippi to near Greenwood and Oxford, Mississippi before crossing into Tennessee and finally dissapating near Middleton. It was on the ground for 203 miles and killed 58 people. A third violent (F4) tornado touched down just after 6 pm CST, and tracked from just east of Vicksburg to Yazoo City before dissapating near Lexington, Mississippi.......killing 13 people along a 63 mile long path.

February 21, 1971 Tornado Track Map


Even though the tornadoes tracked across sparsely populated areas and no large population centers were struck, the death toll was ghastly. Entire families were wiped out, some victims blown for miles......a few were found dead in rural lakes and farm ponds.

F4 Devastation in Inverness, Mississippi


Read more about this deadly tornado outbreak here
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/February_1971_Mississippi_Delta_tornado_outbreak
 
Last edited:
Messages
398
Location
Niagara Falls, Ontario
First of all, thanks for finding such quality data on a fairly obscure outbreak!
I tend to agree with Grazulis that the Delhi/Inverness tornado was probably high-end F4 rather than F5, since houses were leveled with debris pushed off of their foundations instead of being cleanly swept away. That being said, I also think the tornado was almost certainly at F5 strength at some point, since it crossed over rural areas just after causing high-end F4/low F5-level damage
 

PerryW

Member
Honorary Meteorologist
Messages
144
Location
Wilsonville, Oregon
Special Affiliations
SKYWARN® Volunteer
First of all, thanks for finding such quality data on a fairly obscure outbreak!
I tend to agree with Grazulis that the Delhi/Inverness tornado was probably high-end F4 rather than F5, since houses were leveled with debris pushed off of their foundations instead of being cleanly swept away. That being said, I also think the tornado was almost certainly at F5 strength at some point, since it crossed over rural areas just after causing high-end F4/low F5-level damage
Yes, it's difficult to assess accurately. I do feel confident however that all three of the killer tornadoes that afternoon/ evening were violent (at least F4).
 

Lori

Administrator
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Messages
682
Location
Pelham, AL
Special Affiliations
SKYWARN® Volunteer
Perry, until you posted this, I wasn't aware of this particular event!! Thanks for sharing!!
 
Messages
398
Location
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Perry, until you posted this, I wasn't aware of this particular event!! Thanks for sharing!!
Yeah I only knew about it because of one of my textbooks in my meteorology program...The thing is a lot of outbreaks in the 70's are very obscure in the wake of the 74 Super Outbreak.

Even the Birmingham, Alabama tornado on April 4, 1977 is almost forgotten most of the time even though it might have been one of the most violent tornadoes ever recorded, giving the Brandenburg, Kentucky and Tanner, Alabama tornadoes of the Super Outbreak a serious run for their money. Other major tornadoes from the 70's like the ones in Lubbock and Valley Mills, Texas, Spiro, Oklahoma, and Jordan, Iowa, seem to be even more completely forgotten (although they all, except for the Lubbock tornado, had low death tolls and no photos of them were taken).
 

Gawxnative

Member
Messages
20
Location
Between, Georgia (Walton County)
Yeah I only knew about it because of one of my textbooks in my meteorology program...The thing is a lot of outbreaks in the 70's are very obscure in the wake of the 74 Super Outbreak.

Even the Birmingham, Alabama tornado on April 4, 1977 is almost forgotten most of the time even though it might have been one of the most violent tornadoes ever recorded, giving the Brandenburg, Kentucky and Tanner, Alabama tornadoes of the Super Outbreak a serious run for their money. Other major tornadoes from the 70's like the ones in Lubbock and Valley Mills, Texas, Spiro, Oklahoma, and Jordan, Iowa, seem to be even more completely forgotten (although they all, except for the Lubbock tornado, had low death tolls and no photos of them were taken).
Yes April 4, 1977 Birmingham tornado, Plus the combination of the Southern 242 crash was in some ways more deadly to "Alabama" than the 1974 Super Outbreak. And IMO the failure of communication between NWS and FAA led the Southern flight to be vectored into the parent supercell.
 

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)

Top