A deadly storm system rocked the southern states of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas this week, killing at least 10 and injuring 40. Although the National Weather Service was able to confirm a total of at least 14 separate tornado touchdowns across the three states, officials specified that the majority of the fatalities and damage had stemmed from one twister in particular, which tore through the towns of Sardis, Clarksdale and Holly Springs in northern Mississippi and Rhea and Perry County, southwest of Nashville Tennessee. As photos of the storm damage began rolling in, the scale of the tragedy quickly became apparent.
"I laid down on the ground [when the tornado hit]," Holly Springs resident Lance Meeks told CNN affiliate WTVA. "Rolled right over me. Uprooted trees, cut trees in half. And I don't know why I'm still standing here talking to you."
Given the circumstances, said officials, most residents were lucky to escape with their lives. "It’s bad, but it could have been a whole lot worse," Marshall County Sheriff Kenneth Dickerson said of the damage, in a statement.
In terms of material damage, the trail of devastation left in the wake of Wednesday's deadliest tornado, which was on the ground for 150 miles (the longest-track December tornado on record), looked more like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie, with massive trees uprooted where they stood and homes smashed to splinters.
Holly Springs, Mississippi
In Holly Springs, the damage was especially dire, with CBS affiliate WREG comparing the scene to "a war zone":
The northern Mississippi town of Sardis was struck by Wednesday's deadly storm system as well, with citizens forced to work around the wreckage of shattered windows and crushed vehicles the following morning:
Near Clarksdale in Coahoma County, a large twister hit a regional airport, tossing planes as if they were toys before moving on to tear up nearby farmland:
After devastating parts of Mississippi, the storm system made its way to several counties in central and western Tennessee, where a flurry of tornadic activity killed three people:
On Thursday, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency, adding that despite the casualties and catastrophic damage, communities would pull through together. "Mississippians are resilient in difficult times," Bryant said in a statement. "We will meet this challenge head on for those that are in need."