Some of the people who witnessed the tornado devastation in Rolling Fork and Silver City back in March couldn’t believe that the storm didn’t earn the highest classification– EF-5. The National Weather Service called it an EF-4 with top winds initially estimated at 170 miles an hour– not even close to EF-5 strength. But the damage has undergone a further review as more information has come in.
“In the case of a very high-end, violent tornado like this one, we actually pull in expertise from people who are specialized in both tornado damage surveys and structural engineering,” says Daniel Lamb at the Weather Service office in Jackson.
“And they really kind of help us identify what type of wind it takes to damage certain structures along the tornado path.”
Lamb says they’ve now issued their final update on the storm after deciding that the winds were stronger than they first thought. But the tornado is still not being classified as an EF-5.
“The final determination was EF-4, 195 (mph). The EF-4 scale goes up to 200 miles an hour, so it’s on the higher end of an EF-4. Really, the distinguishing factor between 4 and 5— when it comes to most buildings, they’re destroyed with either of those. And you’re getting into details of how much of the debris was swept from the foundation of the building and how well was the building constructed.”
He says it’ll still go down in the record books as the strongest tornado to hit Mississippi since the EF-5 in Smithville in 2011. Those winds were estimated at 205 miles an hour—just ten miles an hour stronger than the Rolling Fork-Silver City tornado.