Mississippi meteorologist breaks down over tornado hit

A Mississippimeteorologist broke down on-air and prayed while reporting on a dangerous tornado that was barrelling towards a small town.

Matt Laubhan, chief meteorologist for local TV station WTVA, struggled to contain his emotions as he told the viewers that the town of Amory was going to take the direct hit from the huge twister. Amory has a population of just over 6,000.

Mr Laubhan told viewers that as much as they “trust him”, he wasn’t sure how the tornado would pan out.

"Oh man, north side of Amory, this is coming in," he said late Friday during the broadcast.

"Oh, man. Dear Jesus, please help them. Amen," he said as more detailed updates of the tornado’s movements came in.

One person was killed in Alabama and 25 in Mississippi as overnight tornadoes wove more than a 150-mile path of destruction through the states, touching down in many regions where mobile homes and other residential structures outnumber sturdier houses.

The twister flattened entire blocks, ripped a steeple off a church and toppled a municipal water tower. Even with recovery just starting, the National Weather Service warned of a risk of more severe weather.

Preliminary information based on estimates from storm reports and radar data indicate the Friday night tornado was on the ground for more than an hour and traversed at least 170 miles, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Lance Perrilloux with the NWS office in Jackson, Mississippi.

“That’s rare — very, very rare,” he said, attributing the long path to widespread atmospheric instability.

Tornadoes and severe winds continued to batter parts of the south during the weekend and thousands remained without power as the storm moved east.

Nearly 13,000 people remained without power in Georgia on Sunday morning, according to PowerOutage.us.

Mississippi governor Tate Reeves on Saturday declared a state of emergency after the storm system tore through Rolling Fork and Silver City before smashing into Winona, Amory and Alabama. The massive supercell storm also brought hail the size of golf balls.

Rolling Fork mayor Eldridge Walker said that his “city is gone” after buildings and homes were obliterated.

“How anybody survived is unknown by me,” said Rodney Porter, who lives 20 miles south of Rolling Fork.

When the storm hit Friday night, he immediately drove there to assist in any way he could. Porter arrived to find “total devastation” and said he smelled natural gas and heard people screaming for help in the dark.

“Houses are gone, houses stacked on top of houses with vehicles on top of that,” he told The Associated Press.

President Joe Biden on Sunday approved an emergency declaration for Mississippi. Mr Biden ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the affected areas, a White House statement said.

The funding will be available to affected people in the counties of Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe, and Sharkey, it added.