The 12/16/00 Russell-Dalewood, MS Tornado

Lauderdale County, MS had a surprise visitor on Saturday, December 16th, 2000, in the form of a tornado that crossed the northeast part of the county.  The tornado dropped without warning from a building supercell that went from near-dissipation to rapid intensification in the Meridian, MS area.

The tornado first touched down at approximately 11:30am CST, just south of US 11/80 near Sweet Gum Bottom Rd (about 5 miles east-northeast of downtown Meridian), and moved almost due north for its first 2 miles, damaging homes and a business along Malone Ranch Rd and Marion-Russell Rd.  After severely damaging a building north of Marion-Russell Rd, the tornado turned northeast.

After crossing Russell-Topton Rd, the tornado zig-zagged through a large wooded area before crossing Lauderdale-Toomsuba Rd just south of Minnow Bucket Rd.  The tornado narrowly missed many houses in this area, but did take most of the roof off a house northeast of Minnow Bucket Rd.  The next building in the path was Bolen's Store, which was destroyed.  After that, the tornado moved through the southern Dalewood area, crossed the lake (including the point on the southern shore), and dissipated near Kewanee Rd (about 2 miles southeast of Lauderdale) at approximately 11:45am CST.

The tornado was rated as an F2 on the Fujita Scale, with most of the F2 damage in the Marion-Russell Road area, while the rest of the path ranged from F0 to strong F1 (tornadoes are rated by their highest damage location).  The average path width was approximately 600 feet, with the tornado being 1/4 mile wide at its widest point.  The path length was roughly 12 miles, putting the average speed at just under 50 MPH.  Thankfully, no serious injuries or fatalities occurred in Mississippi.  Unfortunately, the storms intensified further once into Alabama, and spawned several tornadoes, including an F4 in Tuscaloosa with 11 fatalities.

Here is a rough map of the tornado path.

I was on the scene in Dalewood within an hour of the event, and assisted John Baxter of the National Weather Service in conducting a preliminary storm survey.  This is also where I took my initial spread of photographs.

On Monday, 12/18/00, I was a passenger in a Search-and-Rescue helicopter from NAS Meridian, surveying the damage path.  Below are pages showing 15 photographs from the trip.  My thanks to the SAR guys at NAS Meridian for assisting me and my LEMA counterparts in this.

My final spread of photographs were taken on 1/12/01, about 4 weeks after the storm hit.

12/16/00 Initial Photos 12/18/00 Aerial Photos 1/12/01 Aftermath Photos
Downed Trees

Serious Damage in Dalewood

Other Damage

Marion/Russell Area

Wooded Area (NNE of Russell)

Dalewood Area

Bolen's Store Revisited

More Damage Revisited

Marion-Russell Road Damage

This page is dedicated to the residents in the areas affected.  My thoughts and prayers are with you, and I wish you the best in recovering.

The photographs on these pages are the exclusive property of Adam Froehlig, and are intended for private use and viewing only.  I have no qualms with official government use of these pictures (in fact, hard copies of these photographs were sent to Lauderdale EMA, NWS Jackson, and NAS Meridian), or allowing others to see them, but NO COMMERCIAL USE is sanctioned.

NWS Jackson's page on the Russell-Dalewood tornado (link may be down)
Preliminary Surveys by NWS Birmingham of the Alabama tornadoes
Damage pictures for the 2/16/01 Starkville storm.
See some Weather Pics

Page last modified 31 December, 2003