On this day in 1971, the Mississippi River Delta is pounded by powerful tornadoes that kill more than 100 people. The storm that caused the twisters moved up from the bayous of Louisiana through Mississippi to Tennessee. Hundreds of people were injured across the three states.
One of the worst tornadoes that struck on February 21 was an F4 on the Fujita Scale (the scale has since been replaced by the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which would make this an EF4 today) category twister–with winds of between 207 and 260 mph–that hit Madison Parish, Louisiana, at about 2:50 p.m. Forty-six people lost their lives as the tornado moved several miles northeast to the town of Waverly. The dead included 10 family members who lived near the community of Delhi. Witnesses reported that the twirling winds dumped many of the bodies into the bayou.
Just after the Madison Parish tornado struck, another hit East Carroll Parish. That one skipped right over the Mississippi River into Issaquena County. Another twister slammed down in Inverness, Mississippi, where 150 buildings were destroyed, 21 residents were killed and more than 200 people were injured.
Later that afternoon, multiple tornadoes crashed down across Mississippi. One F4 twister ran through Warren, Yazoo and Holmes counties, killing 13 people and injuring nearly 200 more. About 60 people across the state lost their lives. Several twisters also touched down in Tennessee, but none were deadly. The last reported tornado struck the town of Hurricane, Mississippi, where a school was destroyed in the powerful, whirling winds.
President Richard Nixon declared the affected region a disaster area and organizations such as the Red Cross quickly provided aid. Hospitals for hundreds of miles around pitched in to help treat the approximately 1,000 people who were injured.