TV meteorologist Matt Laubhan regularly warns of tornados in the area with an unfazed attitude but on Friday night he had a severe sence of urgency.
“Oh man, north side of Amory, this is coming in,” Mr Laubhan told viewers. As the weather picture evolved he also blurted out: “Dear Jesus, please help them, Amen.”
The tornado-spawning storm system that Mr Laubhan warned of struck Mississippi and Alabama late on Friday, leaving at least 26 people dead in the two states. More severe weather is being forecast.
But for Leah Ann Hubbard the religious-infused warning “saved lives for sure”, she told The Independent.
The power had already gone out but Ms Hubbard says it was
“We knew it was coming, but you didn’t know if it was going to touch down,” Ms Hubbard said.
“All of a sudden, Matt says, ‘This is a potentially deadly tornado.’ I just remember him saying ‘deadly’ over and over.’”
Despite the region’s frequent severe storms, she said that “most of us have never been in a town where a tornado touched down”.
“Every week, there’s the possibility of severe thunderstorms, particularly in the spring and fall,” she added.
“What made it different was, first, the touchdown in Winona and knowing the same thing was heading to us. There was hope that it would weaken ... but we knew to get ready.”
“And then what was really different was when Matt said ‘deadly tornado ... Armory, take cover.’ Then, you know.’”
The storms devastated several rural towns, with Rolling Fork in western Sharkey County almost completely wiped out.
Mississippi state governor Tate Reeves has declared a state of emergency to help respond to the damage.
US President Joe Biden also described the images coming out of Mississippi as “heartbreaking”, and said the federal government would “do everything we can to help”.
“We will be there as long as it takes. We will work together to deliver the support you need to recover,” he said in a statement.