by Shameka Muhammad
GREENVILLE, Miss.—Residents across the Mississippi Delta braced for a long track of storms that swept through leaving a trail of death and destruction. The Associated Press reported that help began pouring into one of the poorest regions of the U.S. after a deadly tornado tore a path of destruction for more than an hour across a long swath of Mississippi, even as furious new storms struck across the Deep South at presstime.
The communities of Rolling Fork, with a population of about 2,000 people, and Silver City, with a population of about 200 people were the hardest hit with residents awakening to their homes in rubble, businesses flattened, and an overturned water tower.
Surrounding communities rushed to help in the rescue of those who were trapped in piles of rubble and those who had perished. At presstime the death toll was 26 with 13 of those in Rolling Fork.
“The alarms would normally ring, but this time it didn’t. We were told to take shelter right away,” said JoAnn Anderson, cousin of Nation of Islam Student Minister Basil Muhammad and Sister Shameka Muhammad of Greenwood, Mississippi. “Something sounded off. As soon as we laid in the hallway, it started right away. Windows breaking, loud noises so we started praying, ‘help us God, help us,’” she said.
“We are thankful to God to be alive,” said Rolling Fork Police Chief Cardell Hughes. “Now we are going to need manpower to help us with the cleanup efforts,” he said.
The powerful force of the storm downed power lines and left behind trails of mangled metal and overturned vehicles. Future challenges for the majority-Black communities will be tough in the following days as residents try to rebuild their lives in what once was their home.
The massive storm ripped through more than a half-dozen towns late March 24. Search and recovery crews resumed the daunting task of digging through flattened and battered homes, commercial buildings and municipal offices after hundreds of people were displaced. The storm hit so quickly that the sheriff’s department in Rolling Fork barely had time to set off sirens to warn the community of 2,000 residents, said Mayor Eldridge Walker. The mayor said his town was devastated.
President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration for Mississippi early March 26, making federal funding available to hardest hit areas.
At presstime recovery efforts in Mississippi were underway even as the National Weather Service warned of a new risk of more severe weather—including high winds, large hail and possible tornadoes in Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
A tornado touched down early March 26 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 southwest of Atlanta.
About 100 buildings were damaged, with at least 30 uninhabitable, and five people suffered minor injuries, officials said. Many roads, including Interstate Highway 85, were blocked by debris. The Associated Press contributed to this report.