Fed Aid Coming to Tornado-Wrecked MS 03/26 09:08

Fed Aid Coming to Tornado-Wrecked MS   03/26 09:08

   President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration for Mississippi early 
Sunday, making federal funding available to the areas hardest hit Friday night 
by a deadly tornado that ripped through the Mississippi Delta, one of the 
poorest regions of the U.S.

   (AP) -- President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration for Mississippi 
early Sunday, making federal funding available to the areas hardest hit Friday 
night by a deadly tornado that ripped through the Mississippi Delta, one of the 
poorest regions of the U.S.

   At least 25 people were killed and dozens of others were injured in 
Mississippi as the massive storm ripped through several towns on its hour-long 
path. One man was killed after his trailer home flipped several times in 

   Search and recovery crews on Sunday resumed the daunting task of digging 
through the debris of flattened and battered homes, commercial buildings and 
municipal offices after hundreds of people were displaced, even as the National 
Weather Service warned of a risk of more severe weather Sunday -- including 
high winds, large hail and possible tornadoes in Louisiana, Mississippi, 
Alabama and Georgia.

   A tornado reportedly touched down early Sunday in Troup County, Georgia, 
near the Alabama border, according to the Georgia Mutual Aid Group. Affected 
areas included the county seat of LaGrange, about 67 miles (about 108 
kilometers) southwest of Atlanta.

   "Many buildings damaged, people trapped," GMAG said on Facebook. In nearby 
West Point, roads, including Interstate Highway 85, were blocked by debris.

   The Troup County Sheriff's Office said it was responding to reports of 
downed trees and power lines and damaged homes. A tiger was reported missing at 
the Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain. Calls there were not answered early 

   "If you do not have to get on the roads this morning please do not travel," 
the agency said on Facebook.

   Some outages in cell service were reported after a suspected tornado struck 
the area around dawn Sunday, the Troup County Sheriff's Office said.

   Following Biden's declaration, federal funding can be used for recovery 
efforts in Mississippi's Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe and Sharkey counties, 
including temporary housing, home repairs, loans covering uninsured property 
losses and other individual and business programs, the White House said in a 

   The twister flattened entire blocks, obliterated houses, ripped a steeple 
off a church and toppled a municipal water tower.

   Based on early data, the tornado received a preliminary EF-4 rating, the 
National Weather Service office in Jackson said late Saturday in a tweet. An 
EF-4 tornado has top wind gusts between 166 mph and 200 mph (265 kph and 320 
kph), according to the service. The Jackson office cautioned it was still 
gathering information on the tornado.

   The tornado devastated a swath of the 2,000-person town of Rolling Fork, 
reducing homes to piles of rubble and flipping cars on their sides. Other parts 
of the Deep South were digging out from damage caused by other suspected 
twisters. One man died in Morgan County, Alabama, the sheriff's department 
there said in a tweet.

   The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a briefing that 25 people 
were confirmed killed, 55 people were injured and 2,000 homes were damaged or 
destroyed. High winds, hail and strong storms were expected for parts of 
Alabama and Georgia on Sunday, the National Weather Service said.

   "How anybody survived is unknown by me," said Rodney Porter, who lives 20 
miles (32 kilometers) south of Rolling Fork. When the storm hit Friday night, 
he immediately drove there to assist in any way he could. Porter arrived to 
find "total devastation" and said he smelled natural gas and heard people 
screaming for help in the dark.

   "Houses are gone, houses stacked on top of houses with vehicles on top of 
that," he said.

   Annette Body drove to the hard-hit town of Silver City from nearby Belozi to 
survey the damage. She said she was feeling "blessed" because her own home was 
not destroyed, but other people she knows lost everything.

   "Cried last night, cried this morning," she said, looking around at 
flattened homes. "They said you need to take cover, but it happened so fast a 
lot of people didn't even get a chance to take cover."

   Storm survivors walked around Saturday, many dazed and in shock, as they 
broke through thickly clustered debris and fallen trees with chain saws, 
searching for survivors. Power lines were pinned under decades-old oaks, their 
roots torn from the ground.

   Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued a state of emergency and vowed to help 
rebuild as he viewed the damage in a region speckled with wide expanses of 
cotton, corn and soybean fields and catfish farming ponds. He spoke with Biden, 
who also held a call with the state's congressional delegation.

   More than a half-dozen shelters were opened in Mississippi to house those 
who have been displaced.

   Preliminary information based on estimates from storm reports and radar data 
indicate the tornado was on the ground for more than an hour and traversed at 
least 170 miles (274 kilometers), said Lance Perrilloux, a meteorologist with 
the National Weather Service's Jackson, Mississippi, office.

   "That's rare -- very, very rare," he said, attributing the long path to 
widespread atmospheric instability.

   Perrilloux said preliminary findings showed the tornado began its path of 
destruction just southwest of Rolling Fork before continuing northeast toward 
the rural communities of Midnight and Silver City and onward toward Tchula, 
Black Hawk and Winona.

   The supercell that produced the deadly twister also appeared to produce 
tornadoes causing damage in northwest and north-central Alabama, said Brian 
Squitieri, a severe storms forecaster with the weather service's Storm 
Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

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