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Mississippi tornado tore across 170 MILES on path of destruction
By Aneeta Bhole For Dailymail.Com,
A monster tornado cut a deadly path of at least 170 miles through Mississippi and produced dozens of other twisters obliterating towns in the state and ravaging parts of Alabama.
The National Weather Service (NWS) sent crews to survey the tornado, but preliminary information based on estimates from storm reports and radar data indicate that one tornado was on the ground for more than an hour.
The weather service said that the extremely 'rare' weather system, which killed at least 25 people, took place because 'all the ingredients were there.'
The Governor of Mississippi Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency on Saturday after surveying the extensive damage in the wake of the deadly storm in the hardest hit towns Silver City and Rolling Fork.
And the White House also offered 'full federal support' to communities devastated by the natural disaster, U.S. president Joe Biden saying he's praying for those affected.
It comes as flood predictions loom over the weekend with an additional 2 to 4 inches of rain possible through Sunday.
The main threats on Saturday were damaging winds and isolated tornadoes as the larger storm system head east before pushing off the East Coast in the evening.
On Sunday, a Level 2 out of 5 risk is in place across portions of the South for another round of severe storms that will bring damaging winds, isolated tornadoes and severe hail to the area.
The areas impacted will include Montgomery in Alabama, Jackson in Mississippi, and Columbus and Macon in Georgia.
The powerful tornadoes spawned from a storm that carved a ferocious path northeastward across Mississippi and parts of Alabama at 80mph, according to AccuWeather .
At least 25 people were killed across the two states, a majority in Mississippi with only one victim, a 67-year-old man, recorded in Alabama so far.
The rural towns of Silver City and Rolling Fork, about 60 miles northeast of Jackson, Mississippi, bore the brunt of damage from a tornado that hit the area just after 8 pm Friday.
Reeves arrived in Rolling Fork on Saturday along with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He said that he has the full support of U.S. president Joe Biden who assured him over the phone that FEMA would be there to 'support' the response.
Biden said that he and First Lady Jill Biden are 'praying for those who have lost loved ones in the devastating tornadoes in Mississippi and those whose loved ones are missing.'
He acknowledged that he'd spoken to Reeves, as well as I spoke with U.S. Senator for Mississippi, Roger Wicker, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and U.S. representative for Mississippi's 2nd congressional district Bennie Thompson.
'To express my condolences and offer full federal support,' he said.
Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Deanne Criswell were also among people Biden reached out to in the wake of the devastation.
'[She] has already deployed emergency response personnel and resources to support search-and-rescue and assess the damage,' he said.
'We will do everything we can to help. We will work together to deliver the support you need to recover, for as long as it takes.'
John Fairman, the CEO of Delta Health, told DailyMail.com he wasn't in Rolling Fork at the time of the tornado but came to inspect the damage at one of his clinics that was split in half.
'The landscape looks leveled, it looks like it's been hit by a bomb,' he said.
'Everything is gone, homes and businesses, I'm outside the clinic now and it's split in half.'
His son, Tony, said the destruction from the natural disaster was shocking.
'It looks like all these homes were destroyed and we're under attack. It looks like a war zone,' he said.
Aerial footage shot on a drone from Rolling Fork shows gutted homes, battered vehicles lodged among rubble and resident's belongings scattered across the wasteland.
Other images from the town revealed shattered residents wandering through the town pouring over the debris hoping to save what valuables they had left.
As dawn broke over Mississippi, the trail of destruction left by the powerful tornadoes lay bare.
Meanwhile, a 67-year-old Alabama man has been killed after being trapped inside his mobile home during the Friday night tornadoes, CNN reported.
A spokesperson for the Morgan County emergency department confirmed the death and told the outlet it was unclear whether one powerful tornado or two separate storms devastated the area.
The Morgan County fatality is the only recorded so far in Alabama and has raised the death toll for the entire storm system to 24.
It comes as authorities revealed that a husband and wife were found dead in their Rolling Fork home after winds sent a neighbor's 18-wheel truck slamming into their home.
Rolling Fork resident Shanta Howard said the community had pulled together to help with the operation.
'Everybody is helping everybody, not just this part of town - it's everywhere,' she told WAPT 16 .
'Everybody is helping and praying for everybody. As you can see, nobody has a home here.
'We had to help dead bodies out of the house. That is very disturbing - actually seeing people losing their lives over bad weather like this.
'What was going through my head? 'Lord I don't want to die. I don't want me or the kids to die.'
Shelters were opened in Mississippi for people forced from their homes by the tornadoes in Sharkey, Monroe and Humphreys counties.
Shelters are open at the National Guard Armory in Rolling Fork, the Humphreys County multipurpose building in Belzoni, and the Old Amory National Guard building in Amory.
All are serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, according to the MEMA.
Volunteer Mississippi, a state volunteer commission, asked people to check on their neighbors but not to go out looking to help until emergency responders were done with their work.
The organization said they would post volunteer opportunities online, and MEMA said the group would match volunteers with groups on the ground 'when the time is right.'
'While our core instincts say to GO! DO! We must wait for the highly trained men and women of our emergency response network to do their selfless work and get folks to safety,' said a tweet from Volunteer Mississippi.
Good Samaritans were pictured in High-Viz jackets wading through the debris on Saturday morning.
Over 30 million people were under a tornado warning through the evening, and were being warned to brace for the killer storms which brought golf ball-sized hail.
Homes had their roofs ripped off and power lines were downed - leaving victims trapped under rubble and thousands without power.
Authorities warned those in its path to brace for a 'life threatening situation' and on Saturday morning deployed search-and-rescue teams to several counties in the region.
'I've never seen anything like this,' Rolling Fork resident Brandy Showah told CNN . 'This was a very great small town, and now it's gone.'
The Governor of Mississippi, Tate Reeves, tweeted early Saturday: 'At least twenty three Mississippians were killed by last night's violent tornadoes.'
'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.'
Later he tweeted: 'Just completed command briefing with our disaster response team. Devastating damage - as everyone knows.'
'This is a tragedy. I am on my way to Sharkey County to be with the people first hit. We are blessed with brave, capable responders and loving neighbors. Please continue to pray.'
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency met on Saturday morning to get more information about the overnight storms and plan how to tackle the devastation.
They tweeted a picture from the meeting and said: 'Currently meeting with our command staff to get more information in the overnight storms and our plan of action moving forward.'
'Information regarding sheltering and feeding operations coming soon.'
Later they said: 'Our executive director is enroute with the Governor. Also, a FEMA Region IV IMAT team is on the way to the state to assist as well.
'We cannot say thank you enough to the amount of people helping our state right now. Mississippi is resilient and we will get through this.'
So far, recorded deaths include 13 roughly 60 miles northwest of Jackson in Sharkey County, home to Rolling Fork, according to county coroner Angelia Easton.
Three others were killed and at least two in a critical condition in Humphreys County, emergency management director Royce Steed told the outlet early Saturday morning.
In Carroll County, three people died in one home, coroner Mark Stiles said adding that it appears they were killed in a tornado.
Meanwhile, two people were killed in Monroe County in northeastern Mississippi, coroner Alan Gurley said.
The tornado has left a trail of destruction and storm debris at least 100 miles long, and is reportedly already battering Alabama.
The storms knocked out power for more than 100,000 homes and businesses across Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee as of 5.45 am ET, with more than 70,000 outages reported in Tennessee alone, according to PowerOutage.us .
NWS issued an urgent alert after the tornado touched down, cautioning: 'To protect your life, take cover now'.
'You are in a life-threatening situation,' it warned.
'Flying debris may be deadly to those caught without shelter. Mobile homes will be destroyed.
'Considerable damage to homes, businesses, and vehicles is likely and complete destruction is possible.'
Search and rescue teams were deployed to Sharkey and Humphreys counties in Mississippi, while first responders were forced to disperse injured victims to surrounding hospitals after the Sharkey-Issaquena Community Hospital saw significant damage.
Mississippi resident Corney Knight said that he, his wife and their three-year-old daughter were at a relative's home when the tornado hit, which he described as 'eerily quiet' just moments before.
He added the sky was dark but 'you could see the direction from every transformer that blew.'
More than half a dozen emergency shelters have been set up throughout Mississippi after the twister ripped through homes and businesses.
After the twister tore through the small town of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, storm chaser Zachary Hill tweeted: 'The damage in Rolling Fork, Mississippi is BAD. People are trapped, we need help here.'
Authorities stressed the urgency of the situation, and Hill said police begged him to get the message out: 'Major tornado damage, we need as many ambulances as possible and any help for search and rescue in this town.'
Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker told WLBT-TV the tornado left him unable to leave his home after it caused significant damage and downed power lines leading to his property.
'The west part of Rolling Fork is a residential area, and just a number of houses over there have been completely destroyed,' added former Rolling Fork mayor Fred Miller.
'Highway 61, where most of our businesses are, all of the businesses on 61 have been completely destroyed. People are trapped in a couple of the eateries, and people are trying to get them out now.'
The tornado has come after several states through the Midwest were battered by a severe weather front, with southern Missouri hit by nearly three inches of rain Thursday night.
Torrential rainfall in the area led to the deaths of two people after their car was swept away in the deluge. Authorities said six young adults were inside the vehicle, however only four escaped.
The body of Devon Holt, 20, of Grovespring, was found at 3.30am, and the body of Alexander Roman-Ranelli, 19, of Springfield, was recovered about six hours later, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Thomas Young said.
Reports indicate a suspected tornado also touched down early Friday in north Texas, damaging homes and downing trees and power lines.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned of potential tornadoes reaching the state into the weekend, as he urged residents to prepare for significant damage.
The storm system was fueled by a dip in the jet stream that powered through California on Tuesday and Wednesday resulting in tornadoes there including one that hit the downtown LA area - the first in the area since 1953.
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