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On This Day in 1953: Deadly Tornado Strikes Vicksburg
December 5, 2022
By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Matt Mehallow
Sixty-nine years ago on December 5, 1953, one of the deadliest tornadoes in Mississippi history hit the city of Vicksburg.
During the day, atmospheric conditions became sufficient to spawn deadly storms and tornadoes. A warm front lifted northward across the southern Mississippi Valley, with temperatures rising to 72 degrees by mid-afternoon. The dewpoint in Vicksburg rose from the 40s in the morning to nearly 70 degrees behind the warm front. This meant an increasingly moist and unstable airmass took shape south of the warm front. The addition of strong daytime heating fostered thunderstorm development across central Louisiana. As these thunderstorms began moving northeastward, wind shear aloft increased, leading to a setup that was favorable for tornadoes.
The storm responsible for the Vicksburg Tornado formed across eastern Madison Parish in Louisiana and continued moving northeastward just west of the Mississippi River. Due to the fact the storm was passing through a sparsely populated area, there is some uncertainty with respect to the exact location where the tornado first touched down. However, there are indications that tornado damage occurred just west of the river in Louisiana.
The tornado crossed over the Mississippi River bridge, moving across the river to the southern tip of DeSoto Island, where it uprooted several trees. As the tornado traversed the Yazoo Diversion Canal, it killed a fisherman, whose car was later found on Levee Street, though he was never found. The deadly twister moved north across China Street, demolishing the Keith Williams Chrysler-Plymouth dealership, then northward across Grove Street, where another fatality occurred. The storm tracked over Monroe Street, clipping the Old Courthouse before hitting the Happyland Nursery. From there, the tornado crossed Cherry Street near the intersection with Main Street.
The twister then moved into the western portion of the Vicksburg National Military Park. As it crossed Confederate Avenue, considerable damage occurred in the Fort Hill area of the park. Residences were then damaged along Union Avenue,and as the tornado exited the park, it moved into the Waltersville community. Along Sherman Avenue, 17 homes and a church were destroyed. The storm finally weakened as it moved northward into a more rural wooded area and dissipated northeast of Vicksburg.
The tornado claimed 38 lives and injured at least 270 along the seven-mile path of devastation. Damage was estimated at around $25 million dollars ($209 million in 2022). It remains the fifth-deadliest tornado to affect Mississippi, behind the 1840 Great Natchez Tornado, the 1936 tornado in Tupelo, the 1971 tornado in Cary, and the 1966 tornado in Jackson. It is one of just four F5 tornadoes recorded in Mississippi since 1950.
Sources: weather.gov, wikipedia
---------- Story Image: Buildings damaged by the December 5, 1953, F5 tornado that hit Vicksburg (Miss.), killing 38 people. (Moncrief Photograph Collection, ID #819, Mississippi Department of Archives & History)