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The March 31 Mid-South Tornado Outbreak as it happened

Significant tornadoes tore through the Mid-South on March 31, causing widespread damage and injuries, and at least 19 deaths.

MEMPHIS, Tenn — The tornado outbreak the Mid-South experienced on March 31 was devastating to the communities of Wynne, Arkansas, and Covington, Tennessee. Significant damage was also reported in McNairy County, Tennessee.

A total of 14 tornadoes went touched down between Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi. Homes were destroyed, communities uprooted, and, tragically, lives were lost.

Here's a timeline of what happened during the tornado outbreak.

Friday morning: The Mid-South enters a rare high risk for severe weather

Around 11:30 a.m. Friday morning much of Memphis and the Mid-South was upgraded to a rare five out of five risk for severe weather, meaning many of the storms that develop will be severe. 

Much of the Mid-South, including Memphis, had not been under a severe weather risk this high since 2011. 

The first severe weather outlook was issued six days before the storm hit.

12:30 p.m. Friday: "Particularly Dangerous Situation" Tornado Watch issued

Just after noon, the Storm Prediction Center issued a Tornado Watch for much of the Mid-South, calling the situation "particularly dangerous". This watch was in effect hours before the first tornado touched down.

2:30 p.m. Friday: Tornado rips through Little Rock

Little Rock was hit early Friday afternoon by what's being described as a "catastrophic" tornado.

The tornado in Little Rock was confirmed around 2:25 p.m. over the Reservoir Road area. It went from Little Rock to Jacksonville. Most of the damage happened in West Little Rock before moving into North Little Rock and then towards Sherwood and Jacksonville.

Hospitals in Little Rock reported a surge in patients, which included; CHI St. Vincent in Little Rock and Sherwood, Baptist in Little Rock and North Little Rock, and UAMS.

One person died in North Little Rock, according to the Pulaski County Coroner's Office.

This same storm continued toward the city of Wynne.

4:45 p.m. Friday: Wynne hit hard by tornado

By 4:15 p.m., a Tornado Warning was issued for Wynne, Arkansas, with the National Weather Service saying a confirmed, large and extremely dangerous tornado was headed directly for the town. 

The tornado hit Wynne just after 4:45 p.m. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for first responders to begin to pass along reports of significant damage in the town.

The National Weather Service says the Wynne tornado was EF-3 strength with winds of at least 136 mph. Four people were killed when the storm hit Wynne, and the town's high school was destroyed. The tornado stayed on the ground for 73 miles.  

5 p.m. Friday: Tornado Emergency declared for Parkin and Earle, Arkansas

An incredibly rare Tornado Emergency was issued by the National Weather Service for Parkin and Earle, Arkansas, meaning a confirmed, large and extremely dangerous tornado was bearing down on those two towns directly. 

The tornado remained on the ground for at least 70 miles, from Wynne to near Turrell, eventually crossing the Mississippi River into Tipton County, Tennessee before lifting.

6 p.m. Friday: Tornado slams Covington

As the same storm that produced the Wynne tornado continued across the river into Tennessee, a Tornado Warning was issued around 5:30 p.m. The tornado touched back down and caused severe damage in Brighton and Covington by 6 p.m. At least one person was killed in Covington when the storm hit. Crestview Elementary was severely damaged by the tornado.

The National Weather Service says the Covington tornado was EF-3 strength with winds of 150 mph.

6:45 p.m. Friday: Lexa, Arkansas tornado

Just before 7 p.m., a strong storm developed in Eastern Arkansas, prompting a Tornado Warning for Lee and Phillips Counties. Storm spotters reported a tornado touchdown near Lexa around 7:10 p.m., but no damage was reported. 

7:30 p.m. Friday: Tunica and DeSoto County, Mississippi tornado

The storm that produced a tornado near Lexa, Arkansas then moved across the river into Tunica County, Mississippi, and another tornado touched down just north of the Tunica airport by 7:30 p.m.

That tornado continued into DeSoto County, Mississippi, remaining on the ground through the community of Eudora before lifting along Star Landing Rd. near Nesbit. The National Weather Service was able to confirm that this tornado was an EF-2 with winds of 130 mph. Several homes were damaged near Eudora and dozens of trees were toppled, but no injuries were reported with this tornado.

This same thunderstorm continued east, prompting Tornado Warnings for Fayette, Marshall, and Hardeman Counties over the next two hours. The storm eventually approached McNairy County, Tennessee.

9:00 p.m. Friday: Tornado strikes Hardeman County

Around 8:55, an EF-2 tornado touched down near Grand Junction. This storm uprooted large trees that were on Van Buren Road and damaged one home on Callahan Road. 

There were no injuries or fatalities.

9:30 p.m. Friday: Tornado hits McNairy County

By 9:15 p.m., a Tornado Warning had been issued for McNairy County, Tennessee, which included Selmer, Bethel Springs, and Adamsville. An EF-2 tornado touched down just south of Bethel Springs around 9:30 p.m. Multiple homes were completely destroyed. The twister stayed on the ground for 18 miles. No injuries were reported. The funnel lifted south of White Oak Creek Canal around 9:50 p.m.

10:00 p.m. Friday: Severe straight line winds kill 3 in Memphis

At least two tornado warnings were issued for Shelby County around 9 Friday night. The National Weather Service says that severe straight line winds caused serious tree damage and downed power lines. The winds were around 85 mph when a tree fell on a house near the Memphis International Airport and killed three people.

11 p.m. Friday: Second tornado hits McNairy County

This tornado formed in east Hardeman County near Muddy Creek. The EF-3 moved eastward and intensified moving towards Rose Creek. It hit a mobile home that was near Rose Creek Road and killed the four people that were inside. The tornado weakened as it approached Highway 64, just west of Selmer where more homes were completely destroyed. It then took almost the same path as the EF-2 in Bethel Springs, destroying the community center that was on Purdy Beauty Hill Road. The storm intensified again as it moved Dogwood Lane. This is where an additional 4 people were killed by the storm. The tornado weakened as it moved into Hardin and Lewis Counties.

At least nine people were killed and 23 people were injured during this tornado that stayed on the ground for almost 86 miles. 

1 a.m. Saturday: Tornado Watch cancelled

Just after Midnight, the Tornado Watch was cancelled for the Memphis area, bringing an end to the 8 hour long severe weather outbreak.

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