Southeastern States Battered by Deadly Tornadoes

Towns in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia were hit by tornadoes Friday, March 25, as well as continuous subsequent severe weather over the weekend.

Storms+in+Mississippi+left+trails+of+mass+destruction+upon+some+of+its+most+vulnerable+towns.+ Hall/Reuters

Storms in Mississippi left trails of mass destruction upon some of its most vulnerable towns.

Zahra Parsons, Print Co Editor-in-Chief

Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms decimated cities in Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama Friday, March 25, and over the weekend, causing mass damage of houses and buildings, as well as dozens of deaths and injuries. 

The tornadoes left damage for over 100 miles across Mississippi. They hit several towns, including Rolling Fork, Silver City, Tlucha, Winona and Amory. 25 people were killed, according to ABC News, and dozens more were injured. At least 2,000 homes were reported to have been harmed or destroyed by the storms.

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“Sharkey County, Mississippi, is one of the poorest counties in the state of Mississippi, but we’re still resilient,” Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker said, according to the Associated Press. “We’ve got a long way to go, and we certainly thank everybody for their prayers and for anything they will do or can do for this community.” 

Half of the deaths were reported in Rolling Fork, a Delta town where 21% of residents live in poverty. There is little funding available and no existing emergency shelters in the town, exacerbating the effects of the natural disaster on its residents. Additionally, a large portion of the community lives in mobile homes, which are more vulnerable to destruction resulting from severe weather conditions. 

“When you talk about Rolling Fork, that’s a much more economically depressed area,” Mississippi WTVA meteorologist Matt Laubhan said to NBC News. “And that’s a place that did not have those kind of community shelters.”

President Joe Biden declared an emergency for Mississippi on Sunday, March 26, making federal funding and services available to the affected counties for their recovery efforts. 

Radars detected at least one tornado Sunday morning in LaGrange, Georgia, according to the National Weather Service. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency on Sunday morning, as well, which outlined the presence of “thunderstorms, high-velocity straight-line winds, and multiple tornadoes.” 

The National Weather Service reported large, scattered hail, and winds up to 70 mph in central Georgia. Additionally, several Georgia counties, including Pike, Hancock and Warren, received excessive rainfall and remained under flash flood watch. 

The Wildlife Animal Safari in Pine Mountain, Georgia, reported that on Sunday morning, two tigers temporarily escaped their compound as a result of “extensive tornado damage.”

“Fortunately, none of our animals and employees were hurt. However, several animal enclosures were breeched [sic], and two tigers briefly escaped. Both have now been found, tranquilized, and safely returned to a secure enclosure,” Wildlife Animal Safari said on Facebook.

In addition to the over two dozen people who died in Mississippi, at least one person died in Alabama, as well, after being rescued by first responders and facing serious injuries. The National Weather Service has confirmed a count of at least five tornadoes across central Alabama, affecting several counties, including Autauga, Clarke, Elmore, Macon and Wilcox

Central Alabama also experienced excessive rainfall followed by flash flood warnings, and softball-sized hail in Prattville and Tallapoosa. There was extensive damage to homes, buildings, trees and power lines in these areas. Across Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, over 40,000 people lost power at some point, according to NPR

Those across the affected states have endured death, injury and the destruction of their homes and businesses, but there are several ways to help their recovery efforts. Funding, especially in areas suffering from poverty, is imperative. Donations can be made through various organizations in-person and online, including the Rolling Fork National Guard/Civic Center, the United Way of West Central Mississippi and various GoFundMe pages. 

Another aid avenue is the donation of supplies. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, Department of Agriculture and Department of Public Safety are accepting donations of bottled water, canned goods and paper products. 

“The loss will be felt in these towns forever. Please pray for God’s hand to be over all who lost family and friends,” Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said in a tweet Saturday.