Dozens injured or dead; Biden statement
The tornadoes left a trail of destruction across rural Mississippi Friday night, killing at least 23 people, leveling buildings and plunging thousands of homes into darkness.
On Saturday, President Joe Biden called the devastation “heartbreaking” as search and rescue efforts continued and testimonies from survivors emerged, including restaurant workers who huddled in a refrigerator to survive.
In addition to the fatalities, dozens of people were injured and four missing following a wave of tornadoes, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency confirmed Saturday morning. The crews too started damage assessment Saturday, the agency said. The death toll could continue to climb, the agency said.
According to AccuWeather, most of the worst impacts came from a storm that carved a devastating northeastward path through Mississippi and Alabama. The rural towns of Silver City and Rolling Fork, about 60 miles northeast of Jackson, Mississippi, suffered the brunt of tornado damage.
“It’s almost total devastation,” said Royce Steed, the emergency manager for Humphreys County, where Silver City is located. “This little old town…is more or less wiped off the map.”
WHAT WE KNOW:Mississippi tornadoes cause death and destruction
Witnesses describe devastation in Mississippi town Rolling Fork
Onward’s Victoria Garland was in Rolling Fork with her husband early Saturday trying to help residents struggling with the damage. She called it “utter devastation”.
“A lot of things that we could see were gone,” she said. “The skyline you’ve grown up with all your life is gone. The businesses we rely on are gone. We’re definitely in shock.”
Garland said a Rolling Fork animal shelter was destroyed, but three dogs miraculously survived.
“I don’t know how,” she said. “Finding a live dog was amazing. It’s just unreal.”
At Chuck’s Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, owners and employees weathered the storm by huddled inside the restaurant’s walk-in fridge as winds scolded the metal structure, Tracy Harden, 48, told USA TODAY.
Harden and her husband bought the decades-old restaurant 16 years ago, and it has become a hub for the Rolling Fork community, she said. By Saturday morning, the beloved gathering place had been completely destroyed and the only things left standing were the refrigerator and a bathroom, where another person hid to survive the tornado.
“I care so much about my city, and our company is the place to go, not just to eat, but to be loved and comforted through everything,” she said.
Eldridge Walker, Mayor of Rolling Fork told WLBT-TV that he was unable to get out of his damaged home shortly after the tornado because the power lines were down. He told CNN his town had been largely wiped out.
“My town is gone,” he said. “But we are resilient and we will come back strong.”
As of Saturday morning, more than 15,500 homes were without power in Mississippi, along with 20,400 in Alabama and 53,700 in Tennessee, according to poweroutage.us.
Biden calls Mississippi tornado damage ‘heartbreaking’
President Joe Biden said he has reached out to Governor Tate Reeves and spoken with FEMA and local authorities to offer federal support for recovery efforts.
“The images from across Mississippi are heartbreaking,” he said in a statement. “While we still assess the extent of the damage, we know that many of our fellow Americans are not only grieving their family and friends, they have lost their homes and businesses.”
Search and rescue efforts underway on Saturday
Significant amounts of debris are blocking roads, the Mississippi Department of Transportation said, adding that some of it appeared to have traveled more than 100 miles in the storm. Patients at Sharkey-Issaquena Community Hospital in Rolling Fork were transferred to other hospitals after the building was damaged in the storm, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency Saturday in all counties affected by the storms. He said in Twitter posts on Friday and Saturday that search and rescue efforts were continuing and authorities were dispatching more ambulances and other emergency resources to the area. He also said he had completed a briefing with disaster response teams and was heading to Sharkey County.
“The loss will be felt in these towns forever,” he said. “Please pray for God’s hand to be with everyone who has lost family and friends.”
Tornado reports in Mississippi, Alabama
There were at least two dozen tornado reports on Friday across Mississippi and Alabama, including in Mississippi’s Rolling Fork, Silver City and Winona, according to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.
In Morgan County, Alabama, first responders are going door to door checking on residents. Crews rescued a man who was stuck in the mud when a trailer was overturned and six people were trapped in a house, according to the county sheriff’s office.
Central Mississippi is expected to receive more rain on Sunday, with thunderstorms possible in the afternoon, according to AccuWeather. According to the National Weather Service, severe thunderstorms could continue with possible large hail, damaging gusts and more tornadoes from far eastern Texas and central Louisiana to south and central Mississippi, North America. ‘Alabama and Georgia.
The same storm that crossed south on Friday is heading northeast toward the Great Lakes region on Saturday, bringing gusts ranging from 40 to 60 mph, torrential rains and possible flooding, according to AccuWeather forecasts.
National Weather Service warns of dangers after storms
As search and rescue teams work at the scene of tornado damage, the National Weather Service has urged residents of affected areas to beware of danger which can remain even after the passage of storms. Here are a few tips:
- Use generators outdoors and at least 20 feet from doors, windows, and garages to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Drink only bottled or boiled water and watch out for foods that spoil in refrigerators.
- Do not enter damaged buildings until authorities say it is safe.
- Leave your home if there are moving or unusual noises.
- If you smell gas, get out immediately and call 911.
- Stay away from power lines.
- Do not walk or drive through flood waters.
Earlier, weather service forecasters warned Friday night that tornadoes would cause a “life-threatening situation”. When the storm hit, the agency issued an alert to the area, saying “To protect your life, COVER YOURSELF NOW!”
Night tornadoes are deadly
Nighttime tornadoes are twice as likely to be deadly as daytime tornadoes, scientists report. A 2008 study published by Professors Walker Ashley and Andrew Krmenec of Northern Illinois University found that nighttime tornadoes accounted for only 27% of all tornadoes from 1950 to 2005, but were responsible for 39% of all tornado deaths. .
In fact, one in 32 nighttime tornadoes results in a death, compared to one in 64 during the day.
Some reasons for this are obvious, according to Weather.com meteorologist Jon Erdman.
Unless you’re lit by at least fairly frequent lightning, you might not see a tornado at night, Erdman said. “One of the challenges facing the meteorological and social science communities is getting the public to take shelter immediately, without first ‘confirming the threat’ of a tornado by looking ahead. outside and wasting precious seconds to get to safety.”
He added that most people are home and sleeping at night and may not be aware of an approaching tornado threat: If you can’t see a tornado coming, it’s more likely to happen. kills you, and even more so if you’ve ever gone to bed.
— Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
Contributor: The Associated Press; The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger; Claire Thornton, USA TODAY