ROLLING FORK, Miss. (NewsNation) — Devastating, unrecognizable, gone — that’s how people who call Silver City and Rolling Fork home describe the aftermath of a deadly tornado that tore a path of destruction across the Deep South.
At least 22 people were killed, 55 others injured and 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed as the massive storm ripped through more than a half-dozen towns across the Mississippi Delta, Alabama and parts of Central Georgia late Friday. A man was also killed in Alabama after his trailer home flipped over several times.
Help began pouring in on Sunday amid grief mixed with gratitude and pain, but there was an uncanny amount of promise for residents’ faith that their communities will be rebuilt, even if they have to do it themselves.
“This is a small community, but since this tragedy happened everybody has pulled together and come together to help one another and it’s a blessing,” said Kesha Stamps, a Rolling Fork resident.
Stamps told NewsNation that she and five other family members are living in a hotel in Greenville, about 45 minutes away from Rolling Fork. They drove back to grab food and water, but she doesn’t know how long they’ll be hotel hopping.
Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker said this is one of the poorest counties in the state, but they’ll rebuild “bigger and better than before.”
The focus right now is to find homes for so many residents who have nothing left.
“And I’ll tell you,” Walker said, “Communications has been a big problem right now, that wasn’t sure I’d be able to do this interview, to be honest, because it has been going in and out.”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said his top priority is to get temporary housing set up, as thousands are displaced statewide.
Recovery efforts are underway, there are staging areas in Silver City and Rolling Fork with food, water and volunteers willing to help in any way that they can. The Federal Emergency Management Agency director said the agency will be in both cities for as long as their assistance is needed.
“We’ve had so many volunteers who are on the way; we’ve got about 120 workers on the ground right now, with 150 more planning to come in within the week,” said Annette Rowland, the regional director of communications at American Red Cross of Alabama and Mississippi. “We’ve opened three shelters, and we are ready to feed, we are going to be ramping up those efforts soon, and providing supplies in the neighborhood. Also going around doing mobile feeding as soon as it’s safe to access those areas because there are some areas that they’re still debris.”
President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration for Mississippi early Sunday, making federal funding available to hardest-hit areas.
Reeves took FEMA on a tour of Rolling Fork Sunday.
“We’re going to rebuild, and we’re gonna rebuild bigger and better than we’ve ever seen. There’s so many good people here. I was with the sheriff there in Humphreys County, I went to Silver City yesterday, major damage, major damage. But I will tell you, the folks that just literally put a grill on the back of their pickup truck, and just pull up and start cooking and feeding people, you can’t help but be inspired by that.” Reeves said.
“We have teams here that are already beginning to support the recovery process, and we’re going to work very closely with the governor and his team to make sure that we understand what the unique needs of each of these neighborhoods are and that we bring in the right resources to support them,” said Deanne Criswell, a FEMA administrator.