Tornados possible Thursday afternoon

Schools in Columbia and Marion County will be letting our early Thursday afternoon in anticipation of strong thunderstorms that could potentially bring tornados.

The Marion County School District announced today that it would dismiss buses at 12:15 p.m. Thursday and carline at 12:30 p.m.

The Columbia School District will release Columbia Primary and Columbia Elementary at 12:15, Jefferson Middle at 12:30 and Columbia High at 12:45.

The National Weather Service says a large portion of Mississippi, including all of Marion County, is at “enhanced risk” for severe weather. That includes winds of 70 mph to 80 mph with tornados likely and possibly quarter-sized hail.

A flash flood watch is also in effect.

Marion County Emergency Management Director Aaron Greer said they anticipate the storms to start coming in around 1 p.m. Thursday.

“If you don’t have to be on the road, don’t be on it,” he said.

There is furthermore a flood warning for the Pearl River near Columbia. At 12:15 p.m. today the stage was 15.8 feet at Columbia with flood stage being 17 feet.

The Pearl is expected to rise above flood stage Friday afternoon and reach near 19 feet by early Monday afternoon. The National Weather Service says at 17 feet water covers Old Highway 35 west of the Pearl River and that at 18 feet low areas along the river are inundated.