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Total devastation struck Rolling Fork, Mississippi, on Friday when a rare EF-4 tornado hit the vulnerable town. Now residents left in the ruins are questioning if recovery is guaranteed.
The destruction occurred around 8 p.m. and as the tornado hit, a swift National Weather Service warning was issued. “To protect your life, TAKE COVER NOW!”
Residents were left in the dark to face 170 mph winds in defenseless homes. Many of these homes were trailers that were picked up off the ground and smashed into other buildings. The tornado was .75 miles wide and was on the ground for 70 minutes. It traveled 59 miles across Mississippi. The closest disaster shelter was 10 miles away.
Twenty-six people have been reported dead so far, and dozens of residents are wounded. This tornado was one of over 15 other tornadoes to hit the south recently.
“It was a sound that I would never forget,” said business owner Dana Williams in an interview with ABC News. “It sounded like a train just coming straight at us.”
Williams and her husband owned a convenience store and a beauty shop in Rolling Fork. Their business was still open when the tornado hit. They were one of the only Black-owned businesses in the area.
Rolling Fork is a small town with a tight community. Historically, Rolling Fork is known for its agriculture and musical history. The town lies in one of the poorest counties in the country, Sharkey County. Due to this, the area was disproportionately affected by the tornado. The results show that most infrastructures could not withstand the tumultuous winds. More than 100 people were displaced from their homes.
In the aftermath of this disaster, the Rolling Fork community has come together to aid each other. Volunteers from neighboring towns and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are also on the grounds providing support.
“We can see just where we’re standing here that one of the major issues that we’re going to face is housing and how do we help the individuals that have been impacted by this horrific event,” said FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell, in a press release on Sunday.
Currently temporary housing is being provided to residents impacted. President Biden also announced federal aid would be sent to communities affected by the tornadoes.
An image went viral of a man walking through the town of rubble carrying just a suitcase that held the only belongings he could salvage. Irwin Macon, the man in the picture, spoke on his sentiments in an interview with David Muir on ABC News. “That just shows you how quick your life can turn around, you know?” he said. “How fast things can leave.”