A tornado damaged or destroyed at least 20 homes in the north-west part of the state. Clarksdale’s mayor, Bill Luckett, said the only confirmed casualty was a dog killed by storm debris. Planes at a small airport overturned and an unknown number of people were injured.
Television images showed the tornado appeared to be on the ground for more than 10 minutes. Interstate 55 was closed in both directions as the tornado approached, the Mississippi Highway Patrol said.
After an EF-1 tornado struck the south Indianapolis suburb of Greenwood, television stations showed pictures of damage including a portion of a roof blown off a veterinary office.
The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed on Wednesday night that two people were killed in severe storms. Officials said the deaths, one male and one female, occurred in Perry County. No further details were available.
The biggest threat for tornado was in a region of 3.7 million people in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas and parts of Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky, according to the national Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma. The center issued a “particularly dangerous situation” alert for the first time since June 2014, when two massive EF4 twisters devastated a rural Nebraska town, killing two people.
The greatest risk for a few “intense, long-tracked tornadoes” will be through Wednesday night.
About 120 miles (193km) east of the tornado, Brandi Holland, a convenience store clerk in Tupelo, Mississippi, said people were reminded of a tornado that damaged or destroyed more than 2,000 homes and businesses in April 2014.
“They’re opening all our tornado shelters because they say there’s an 80% chance of a tornado today,” Holland said.