Tornado cut a deadly path of destruction in Mississippi for more than an hour

Rescuers raced Saturday to search for survivors and help hundreds of homeless people after a powerful tornado sliced ​​a devastating path through Mississippi, killing at least 25 people, injuring dozens and leveling entire city blocks and homes in at least one Mississippi city -Delta had destroyed a path of destruction for more than an hour. One person was killed in Alabama.

The tornado devastated part of the Mississippi town of Rolling Fork, dumping homes in piles of rubble, overturning cars and toppling the water tower.

Local residents hunkered down in bathtubs and broke into a John Deere store, which they converted into a triage center for the wounded.

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

Other parts of the Deep South dug out from damage from other suspected twisters. A man also died in Morgan County, Alabama, the sheriff’s department said on Twitter.

Rescuers search through tornado-strewn debris in Mississippi.
More than two dozen people died in the wake of a powerful tornado that swept through Mississippi. (Rogelio V. Solis/The Associated Press)

“There’s nothing left,” said Wonder Bolden, who held her granddaughter Journey as she stood in front of the remains of her mother’s now-leveled trailer in Rolling Fork.

“There’s just the breeze running, passing through – just nothing.”

All Saturday morning, she and others walked around dazed and in shock as they smashed through rubble and fallen trees with chainsaws, searching for survivors. Power lines have been fixed under decades-old oak trees whose roots have been uprooted.

“Heartbreaking” devastation

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency and pledged to help rebuild as he set out to view the damage in an area bordered by vast expanses of cotton, corn and soybean fields and catfish farming ponds was speckled.

US President Joe Biden also promised federal aid and described the damage as “heartbreaking”.

Damage in Rolling Fork was so widespread that several storm chasers — who track severe weather and often livestream dramatic funnel clouds — asked for search and rescue assistance. Others called off the chase to take the injured to hospital.

But it didn’t help that the community hospital west of the city was damaged and patients had to be relocated.

Two people hug.
Tracy Hardin, center, who owns Chuck’s Dairy Bar with her husband Tim, left, hugs a neighbor in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on Saturday. The couple and their six employees were hiding in the cooler when the tornado hit. (Rogelio V. Solis/The Associated Press)

Sheddrick Bell, his partner and two daughters huddled in a closet of their Rolling Fork home for 15 minutes as the tornado ripped through. His daughters would not stop crying. He could hear his partner praying aloud next to him.

“I just thought, ‘If I can still open my eyes and move, I’ll be fine,'” he said.

Rodney Porter, who lives south of Rolling Fork and is a member of a local fire department, said he doesn’t know how anyone survived while providing water and fuel to families there.

“It’s like a bomb went off,” he said, describing houses stacked on top of houses. Crews even cut gas lines into the city to ensure the safety of local residents and first responders.

The U.S. National Weather Service’s warning of the storm was no mince: “To save your life, GET THE BLANKETS NOW!”

“All the ingredients were there”

Preliminary information, based on estimates from storm reports and radar data, shows the tornado was on the ground for more than an hour and traveled at least 170 miles, said Lance Perrilloux, a weather forecaster with the Jackson, Mississippi, office of the Weather Service.

“It’s rare — very, very rare,” he said, attributing the long path to widespread atmospheric instability. “All the ingredients were there.”

People stand near a pile of debris riddled with tornadoes
Police officers climb through debris on the premises of a diner searching for survivors in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, on Saturday. (Rogelio Solis/The Associated Press)

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

The supercell that produced the deadly twister also appeared to be producing tornadoes, causing damage in northwest and north-central Alabama, said Brian Squitieri, a severe storm forecaster at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

In Morgan County, north Alabama, a 67-year-old man who became trapped under a trailer that overturned during severe overnight storms was rescued by first responders but later died in hospital, reported.

As survey teams work to estimate the number of tornadoes hit and their severity, the Storm Prediction Center is warning of the possibility of hail, wind and possibly some tornadoes Sunday in parts of Mississippi and Louisiana.

“Near Complete Devastation”

Cornel Knight told The Associated Press that he, his wife and their three-year-old daughter were staying with a relative in Rolling Fork when the tornado struck.

The sky was dark, but “you could see the direction of every transformer that blew.”

He said the tornado hit another relative’s home across a wide cornfield from where he was. A wall in this house collapsed, trapping several people.

A derelict building
Debris covers a damaged structure in Rolling Fork, miss. on Saturday. (Rogelio Solis/The Associated Press)

Royce Steed, the emergency manager in Humphreys County, where Silver City is located, compared the damage to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“It’s almost complete devastation,” he said after crews finished searching for buildings and moved on to damage assessment. “This little old town … it’s more or less erased from the map.”

In town, the roof of Noel Crook’s house, where he lives with his wife, had come off.

“Yesterday was yesterday and that’s over – there’s nothing I can do about it,” Crook said. “Tomorrow isn’t here yet. You have no control over it, so today I am here.”

“Dear Jesus, please help them”

The tornado looked so strong on radar as it approached the town of Amory, about 25 miles southeast of Tupelo, that a Mississippi weather forecaster paused to say a prayer after new radar information arrived.

“Oh man,” said WTVA’s Matt Laubhan on the live broadcast. “Dear Jesus, please help them. Amen.”

A building damaged by a tornado
A damaged building in Silver City, Mississippi, after a tornado. (Mississippi Highway Patrol/Twitter/Reuters)

Now this town is boiling its water and a curfew is in effect.

More than half a dozen shelters have opened across the state to house the displaced.

“It’s a priceless feeling to see the gratitude on people’s faces because they know they’re getting a hot meal,” said William Trueblood, director of disaster relief for The Salvation Army’s Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi Division, as he referred to made his way into the area to pick and replenish supplies along the way.

He said they heard at least 19,000 homes were affected by the storm.


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