Mississippi is grappling with the aftermath of a massive tornado that ravaged the southern state, claiming at least 25 lives. The affected communities are bracing for more extreme weather, as search and rescue workers assess the damage of flattened buildings, shredded homes, and smashed cars in Rolling Fork.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued warnings of potential new “supercell thunderstorms” through late Sunday, which could produce strong tornadoes and very large hail in Mississippi and neighboring Alabama. President Joe Biden has released disaster aid to help the communities. The NWS gave the tornado, which stretched over 100 miles across the state, a rating of four out of five on the Enhanced Fujita scale, with ferocious winds of up to 200 miles per hour. Dozens of people have also been injured, and officials fear the death toll may increase.
Satellite images released show complete destruction across Rolling Fork, with homes destroyed and trees uprooted. The American Red Cross has set up an infirmary and brought boxes full of food and medical supplies to support victims. The severe weather also caused the death of a man in Alabama when he was trapped under an overturned trailer. Officials, including US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, gathered in Rolling Fork on Sunday afternoon, commending the rescue efforts and pledging their support “for the long haul.”
Mayorkas warned that the country is experiencing “extreme weather events increasing… in gravity, severity and frequency, and we have to build our communities to be best prepared for them.” FEMA has sent teams to assist in the recovery process. Biden’s emergency order will provide grants for temporary housing, home repairs, and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses. Electricity repairs have started to restore services, but poweroutage.us reported that 61,000 customers in Mississippi and Alabama are still without power. Volunteers are pouring in from surrounding towns, bringing donations of water, food, canned goods, diapers, wipes, medicine, and toothpaste to help the victims. Tornadoes, which are notoriously difficult to predict, are relatively common in the United States, particularly in the central and southern regions.