Violent, long track tornado crosses 4 states during December outbreak

Tornado could have been on the ground for more than 200 miles, National Weather Service will confirm

The purple and black "ball" north of Mayfield is the radar "seeing" debris lofted into the sky.

It was a devastating, deadly night along parts of the Mississippi River. Severe weather including violent tornadoes ripped through several states late Friday night. The most destructive, potentially historic tornado caused catastrophic damage in Mayfield, KY as it moved through prior to 10 p.m. local time.

The parent thunderstorm that spawned the eventual Mayfield tornado was in progress for more than 250 miles.

[TRENDING: Death toll rising after severe tornado outbreak | Omicron variant detected in Altamonte Springs sewer area | Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]

The National Weather Service will survey the damage to determine how strong the tornado was and if it was in fact caused by one continuous tornado or several that touched, lifted and touched down again.

To date, the longest continuous tornado in known U.S. history is the 1925 Tri-state Tornado. The F5 funnel carved a path of destruction through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, and was on the ground for just shy of 220 miles.

Friday’s storm developed in Central Arkansas around 4 p.m. local time. The first tornado report came just outside of Newport in Northeast Arkansas. Prior to the tornado’s arrival in Mayfield, debris being lofted up by the storm could have been falling on the town from previously impacted areas. The blue dot near Hickman is the debris associated with the actual tornado.

The bright blue dot is debris associated with the tornado itself near Hickman. The speckled green and blue north of Mayfield is the radar picking up lofted debris far from the tornado itself.

The speckled green and blue color north of Mayfield is from the debris that has been lofted into the sky. Indications are that debris may have been thrown as high as 40,000 feet, or higher than where most jet aircraft fly. This happens in only the most intense tornadoes.

Friday’s storm was part of a severe weather outbreak that spawned 37 tornadoes through 7 states. Another round of strong storms is expected Saturday in parts of the Deep South, but will be less intense and not as widespread as Friday.

About the Author:

Jonathan Kegges joined the News 6 team in June 2019 as the Weekend Morning Meteorologist. Jonathan comes from Roanoke, Virginia where he covered three EF-3 tornadoes and deadly flooding brought on by Hurricanes Florence and Michael.