Pascagoula Waterspout Rated an EF-1 Tornado

Pascagoula Waterspout Rated an EF-1 Tornado
Officials expressed concerns over flooded streets and rising rivers Sunday after thunderstorms pelted the Mississippi Coast.

Families were being rescued from several homes in Harrison and Jackson counties as floodwaters seeped into homes and continued to rise.

"It's not done yet," said Earl Etheridge, Jackson County Emergency Services director, at about 5:30 p.m.

A waterspout came on shore at the Chevron Pascagoula Refinery "around noonish," Etheridge said. He learned about it through a video posted on Facebook.

"Nobody called for help and nobody gave us information about it," Etheridge said.

"It would have been nice to know. These storms are tracking north and there were funnel reports in the north part of the county after the waterspout. The National Weather Service could have used that information for tracking purposes."

The east side of Jackson County had received 6 inches or more of rain before nightfall Sunday, Etheridge said.

"And it's still raining."

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings Sunday after several hours of thunderstorms dumped 2 to 4 inches of rain across most of the Coast.

The Environmental Protection Agency was preparing to release some of the processed waters from the gypsum stack at Mississippi Phosphates in Pascagoula, Etheridge said.

"Some of the processed waters, which are highly acidic, need to be released because of all the rain, or we will have a failure like we did in 2005, when it killed everything in Bangs Lake."

Flooding in Jackson County's rivers come from upstate, but rivers in Harrison County are more susceptible to flood from flash flooding, he said.

The Biloxi River is expected to rise above flood stage of 12 feet and crest at 15 feet Monday, the weather service says.

The Tchoutacabouffa River is expected to reach or near flood stage of 8 feet by mid-morning Monday.

Streets and parts of major highways flooded across the Coast, including parts of U.S. 90 and U.S. 49, major highways in Harrison County.

"Several vehicles have left the road because of hydroplaning," Harrison County Fire Chief Pat Sullivan said.

He said Gulfport firefighters and a Harrison County Swift Water Rescue Team removed several families to safety in rural areas and in Long Beach.

"We had a lot of lightning earlier and barricades are being put out to keep people from going into low-lying areas."

Highwater rescues were under way early Sunday night on Rose Drive in Moss Point and a number of Pascagoula streets are flooded, Etheridge said.

Hancock County has had some street flooding but nothing major, Emergency Management Director Brian Adam said.

Public safety officials are urging motorists who must get on the road to drive below the posted speed limit.