Daunting recovery underway in tornado-devastated Mississippi

Help began pouring into one of the poorest regions of the U.S. after a deadly tornado tore a path of destruction in the Mississippi Delta. President Joe Biden has issued an emergency declaration for the state.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP
Wonder Bolden cradles her granddaughter Journey Bolden as she surveys the remains of her mother's tornado-demolished mobile home in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, March 25, 2023.

Help began pouring into one of the poorest regions of the United States after a deadly tornado wreaked a path of destruction in the Mississippi Delta, even as furious new storms Sunday struck Georgia.

At least 25 people were killed and dozens of others were injured in Mississippi as the massive storm ripped through several towns on its hourlong path late Friday. One man was killed in Alabama.

Search and recovery crews resumed the daunting task of digging through the debris of flattened and battered homes, commercial buildings, and municipal offices after hundreds of people were displaced.

Jarrod Kunze drove to the hard-hit town of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, from his home in Alabama after hearing about the storm, ready to volunteer “in whatever capacity I’m needed.”

“The town is devastated,” he said. Mr. Kunze was among several volunteers working Sunday morning at a staging area, where cases of bottled water and other supplies were being prepared for distribution.

President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration for Mississippi early Sunday, making federal funding available to the areas hardest hit.

The recovery efforts in Mississippi were underway even as the National Weather Service warned of a new risk of more severe weather Sunday – including high winds, large hail, and possible tornadoes in Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

A tornado touched down early Sunday in Troup County, Georgia, near the Alabama border, according to the Georgia Mutual Aid Group. Affected areas included the county seat of LaGrange, some 67 miles southwest of Atlanta.

“Many buildings damaged, people trapped,” the nonprofit said on Facebook. In nearby West Point, roads, including Interstate Highway 85, were blocked by debris. “If you do not have to get on the roads this morning please do not travel.”

Following Mr. Biden’s declaration, federal funding can be used for recovery efforts in Mississippi’s Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe, and Sharkey counties, including temporary housing, home repairs, loans covering uninsured property losses, and other individual and business programs, the White House said in a statement.

Based on early data, the tornado received a preliminary EF4 rating, the National Weather Service office in Jackson said late Saturday in a tweet. An EF4 tornado has top wind gusts between 166 mph and 200 mph, according to the service. The Jackson office cautioned it was still gathering information on the tornado.

The tornado devastated a swath of the town of Rolling Fork where nearly 2,000 people live, reducing homes to piles of rubble and flipping cars on their sides. Other parts of the Deep South were digging out from damage caused by other suspected twisters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a briefing that 25 people were confirmed killed in Mississippi, 55 people were injured, and 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued a state of emergency and vowed to help rebuild as he viewed the damage in the region of cotton, corn, and soybean fields and catfish farming ponds. He spoke with Mr. Biden, who also held a call with the state’s congressional delegation.

More than a half-dozen shelters were opened in Mississippi to house those who have been displaced.

Preliminary information based on estimates from storm reports and radar data indicates the tornado traversed at least 170 miles, said Lance Perrilloux, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Jackson office.

“That’s rare – very, very rare,” he said, attributing the long path to widespread atmospheric instability.

Mr. Perrilloux said preliminary findings showed the tornado began its path of destruction just southwest of Rolling Fork before continuing northeast toward the rural communities of Midnight and Silver City and onward toward Tchula, Black Hawk, and Winona.

The supercell that produced the deadly twister also appeared to produce tornadoes causing damage in northwest and north-central Alabama, said Brian Squitieri, a severe storms forecaster with the weather service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

In Tennessee, a short-lived tornado carrying peak winds of 90 mph damaged several homes and outbuildings in Union County as storms moved through the area late Friday and early Saturday, the National Weather Service reported. One man was injured when a tree fell on a moving vehicle, the weather service said. Damage to some buildings and cars also was reported in Middle Tennessee, media outlets said.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. AP writers Emily Wagster Pettus in Rolling Fork, Mississippi; Michael Goldberg in Silver City, Mississippi; Jim Salter in O’Fallon, Missouri; and Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Daunting recovery underway in tornado-devastated Mississippi
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today