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Powerful tornado kills 25 and leaves Mississippi Delta town in ruins



Survivors search for help and hope amidst the destruction

Rescuers raced Saturday to search for survivors and help hundreds of people left homeless after a powerful tornado cut a devastating path through Mississippi, killing at least 25 people, injuring dozens, flattening entire blocks and obliterating houses in at least one Mississippi Delta town as it carved a path of destruction for more than an hour. One person was killed in Alabama.

Devastation in Rolling Fork

The tornado devastated a swath of the town of Rolling Fork, reducing homes to piles of rubble, flipping cars on their sides and toppling the town’s water tower. Residents hunkered down in bath tubs and hallways during Friday night’s storm and later broke into a John Deere store that they converted into a triage center for the wounded.

Number of fatalities continue to rise

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency announced late Saturday afternoon in a tweet that the death toll had risen to 25 from 23. Four people previously reported missing have been found, but dozens also were injured.

“There’s nothing left”

“There’s nothing left,” said Wonder Bolden, holding her granddaughter, Journey, while standing outside the remnants of her mother’s now-leveled mobile home in Rolling Fork. “There’s just the breeze that’s running, going through — just nothing.” Other parts of the Deep South were digging out from damage caused by other suspected twisters. One man also died in Morgan County, Alabama, the sheriff’s department there said in a tweet.

Long path of destruction

Throughout Saturday, she and others walked around dazed and in shock as they broke through debris and fallen trees with chain saws, searching for survivors. Power lines were pinned under decades-old oaks, their roots torn from the ground. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued a State of Emergency and vowed to help rebuild as he headed to view the damage in an area speckled with wide expanses of cotton, corn and soybean fields and catfish farming ponds. President Joe Biden also promised federal help, describing the damage as “heartbreaking.”

Tornado experts warn about risks in the region

The warning the National Weather Service issued as the storm hit didn’t mince words: “To protect your life, TAKE COVER NOW!” Preliminary information based on estimates from storm reports and radar data indicate that it was on the ground for more than an hour and traversed at least 170 miles (274 kilometers), said Lance Perrilloux, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Jackson, Mississippi, office. Tornado experts like Ashley have been warning about increased risk exposure in the region because of people building more.

Gratitude amidst the ruins

“It’s a priceless feeling to see the gratitude on people’s faces to know they’re getting a hot meal,” said William Trueblood, emergency disaster services director for the Salvation Army’s Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi Division, as he headed to the area, picking up supplies along the way. He said they’re hearing at least 19,000 homes were impacted by the severe weather.

A community in mourning

Now that town is boiling its water, a curfew in effect. More than a half-dozen shelters were opened in the state to house the displaced. Despite this, there were signs of improvement. Power outages, which at one point were affecting more than 75,000 customers in Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, had been cut by a third by midafternoon Saturday, according to The community continues to mourn their losses as they try to pick up the pieces from the devastating tornado.



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