President Joe Biden approved federal aid in a major disaster declaration after a powerful storm with straight-line winds and deadly tornadoes ripped through parts of Mississippi and Alabama over the weekend, killing at least 26 people and injuring many more.
According to reports, an EF-4 tornado with wind gusts up to 170 mph leveled most of the Rolling Fork community, a town of about 2,000 near Mississippi’s western border. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, tornadoes reaching EF-4 or EF-5 levels are considered violent and extremely rare.
White House officials said the aid would go toward temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. Biden administration officials approved the aid for the Mississippi counties of Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe, and Sharkey to state, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations.
“Jill and I are praying for those who have lost loved ones in the devastating tornadoes in Mississippi and for those whose loved ones are missing,” Biden said. “The images from across Mississippi are heartbreaking. While we are still assessing the full extent of the damage, we know that many of our fellow Americans are not only grieving for family and friends, they’ve lost their homes and businesses.”
Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency in the affected areas. Reeves asked for prayer in a tweet posted Saturday morning after the death toll surpassed more than 20 from the violent tornados.
“The loss will be felt in these towns forever,” Reeves said. “Please pray for God’s hand to be over all who lost family and friends.”
At least twenty three Mississippians were killed by last night’s violent tornados. We know that many more are injured. Search and rescue teams are still active.
The loss will be felt in these towns forever. Please pray for God’s hand to be over all who lost family and friends.
— Governor Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) March 25, 2023
Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker told CNN, “the city is gone.”
Rolling Fork Vice Mayor LaDonna Sias told the outlet that she heard residents screaming as they took shelter in closets and bathrooms as the storm swept through the town and destroyed her property.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE DAILY WIRE APP
“It seemed like forever until that noise stopped,” Sias said. “It was just totally devastating. Even though we lost everything, this stuff can be replaced. Material things can be replaced, but to lose a loved one – it was just heart-wrenching.”
First responders reported the town looked “unrecognizable” after knocked-down power lines and debris filled what was left of the city.
“Houses [were] completely demolished, businesses demolished … pretty much most of the town is unrecognizable right now,” Baeley Williams, one of the first responders in Rolling Fork, told AccuWeather.
Chilling security footage from a high school in Amory, Mississippi, that news outlets obtained shows the tornado damaging parts of a ceiling and sending debris flying across the highway as a tornado rips through Friday evening.
NEW VIDEO: Security camera footage at the high school in Amory, MS shows the ceiling falling apart and debris getting strewn across the highway as a tornado rips through Friday evening.#MSwx #tornado pic.twitter.com/kgngm23Pus
— WeatherNation (@WeatherNation) March 26, 2023
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency warned of an “enhanced” risk for severe weather patterns for parts of the state to continue Sunday night, which includes winds over 70 mph, hail storms, and a few “possibly strong” tornadoes.
Parts of northern Alabama and south-central Tennessee also experienced tornadoes and severe weather events over the weekend.
The National Weather Service’s Huntsville office said at least three tornadoes touched down over the weekend.
Morgan County Emergency Management officials confirmed to local media that a 67-year-old man was killed in the area after getting trapped inside his mobile home.
An EF-2 tornado touched down just north of the Tennessee-Alabama border near Fayetteville, Tennessee, on Saturday, with peak winds of 118 mph that caused minor roof and shingle damage to single-family homes.
Atlanta weather service officials told local media a “large and extremely dangerous tornado” struck Sunday morning south of LaGrange, Georgia, leaving at least three people injured.
“It was awful … a lot of homes were destroyed,” LaGrange Mayor-elect Willie T. Edmondson told CNN affiliate WSB.
The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center issued a warning Sunday, saying, “a few strong tornadoes and very large hail may occur with the most intense storms, particularly from central Louisiana across central/southern portions of Mississippi and Alabama this afternoon and evening.”
Here is a look at some of the tornado damage in Rolling Fork, Mississippi from the storm on March 24, 2023. #mswx pic.twitter.com/gRZfySOjdd
— msema (@MSEMA) March 26, 2023