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TV meteorologist orders staff to flee tornado during live report

A Mississippi meteorologist ordered staff at WTVA in Tupelo to evacuate the set as a tornado slammed the city during a live report.

“This is a tornado ripping through the city of Tupelo as we speak and this could be deadly,” said Matt Laubhan, chief meteorologist at WTVA. “There’s a damaging tornado … on the ground … right now. A significant tornado touchdown.”

The tornado starts to affect transmission mid-report, and the video freezes. The station is live again as Laubhan yells “Now! Basement, now! Let’s go!” before fleeing the set and ordering others to leave, as well.

WTVA tweeted a shelter warning to its followers before reporting via Twitter that the newsroom staff was safe.

A storm chaser from West Virginia captured video of the Tupelo tornado after a wrong turn put him directly in its path.

“Oh God, here comes the tornado,” Nathan Rohrbough can be heard saying in the video, which has been viewed more than 125,000 times since he posted it on YouTube on Monday. The tornado barely missed him, and he caught the ordeal on video while huddled on the floor of his car, he told WCHS.

“I was really scared because I remember the other three chasers who got killed,” he said. “That tornado was a lot bigger and I kept thinking, ‘Boy, you know this is probably what they were thinking as it approached and you know they got to the point where they realized there was nothing they could do.”

There were no deaths reported in Tupelo after the tornado, although 30 people were being treated for minor to non-life-threatening injuries.

Two days of vicious weather have lead to reports of nearly 100 tornadoes across sections of the South and Midwest. The preliminary death toll was 34 as of Tuesday afternoon, and more than 60 million people between southeastern Michigan, the southern Gulf Coast and southern Virginia were said to be at risk of severe storms and tornadoes as the day wore on.

Twelve of the 34 deaths from the storms were reported in Mississippi, which was hit the hardest by the storm system, according to the Associated Press. An EF4, which has wind speeds of 166-200 mph, hit the Louisville, Miss., area, becoming the most powerful one to hit the U.S. this year.

Contact Stephanie Grimes at sgrimes@reviewjournal.com. Find her on Twitter: @stephgrimes

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