At least 26 people are dead and many more injured in Mississippi and Alabama after a powerful tornado tore through the Deep South, authorities said Saturday.
The severe weather outbreak left a 170-mile path of destruction, leaving thousands without power, obliterating buildings and wiping out large parts of the Mississippi towns of Rolling Fork and Silver City.
In a tweet Saturday afternoon, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MSEMA) confirmed the death toll had risen to 25, but warned the numbers were likely to rise as local and state search-and-rescue teams continued their work.
The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office in Alabama also reported a casualty Saturday, saying a man who was stuck in the mud after his trailer overturned died after being rescued by first responders.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency in affected areas, announcing on social media he’d spoken with President Joe Biden and was assured “FEMA would be there to support our response.”
One deadly tornado appeared to have formed near Lake Providence, La. around 8 p.m. Friday, local television station WAPT reported. It then quickly gained strength as it approached the Mississippi River. Rolling Fork, Miss. took a direct hit from the “wedge tornado,” meteorologists said.
“Wedge” is a term used to describe a tornado that “looks wider than the distance from ground to ambient cloud base,” appearing wider than it is tall, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. AccuWeather confirms they are some of the largest and most destructive types of tornadoes.
“My city is gone,” Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker told CNN. “But we are resilient and we are going to come back strong.”
Royce Steed, the emergency manager in Humphreys County, where Silver City is located, called the aftermath “almost complete devastation.” Comparing the damage to that of Hurricane Katrina, he said his town had been “more or less wiped off the map.”
As cleanup is underway, the National Weather Service warned residents to “be careful near damaged buildings,” “watch out for power lines,” and to avoid walking or driving through floodwaters as “they can contain harmful bacteria, chemicals, sharp objects, live wires and reptiles/other animals.”
In and around Rolling Fork, three locations are now open for anyone seeking shelter following the storms. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be offered at all three shelters MSEMA said.
Earlier this year, a series of powerful tornadoes barreled through Alabama and Georgia, killing at least eight people.
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