Deadly tornado leaves many in Mississippi homeless, jobless

  • Many people lost their lives in a tornado that hit Mississippi
  • Chuck's Dairy Bar, in hard-hit Rolling Fork, was destroyed
  • Its owner plans on staying in the city, though, saying, 'This is our home.'

Debris is what remains from a house destroyed by the Friday night tornado in Rolling Folk, Miss., on Sunday morning, March 26, 2023. The area is quiet after families, friends and neighbors spent most of Saturday trying to salvage their possessions. The tornado was part of a system of severe weather that moved through several southern states causing death and destruction. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

(NewsNation) — Last weekend’s deadly tornado in Mississippi took people’s lives, homes and businesses. Now, many are both homeless and jobless.

Chuck’s Dairy Bar is one of three restaurants in the hard-hit city of Rolling Fork. It is also one of the two restaurants destroyed in Friday’s tornado.

Owners and staff huddled in the freezer. Everyone survived, escaping with their lives — but not their livelihoods.

“I just screamed ‘Cooler, get to the cooler’ and my husband opened the door and started pushing us all in,” owner Tracy Harden recalled. “Somehow he got the door back before he could close it. He looked up and said, ‘I could see the sky.’

Several businesses along Highway 61 in Rolling Fork were decimated, including a lumber yard and a Family Dollar.

It was at the Family Dollar that Kelvin Johnson discovered his cousin, who died in the storm. Johnson had been out attempting to rescue people as soon as the tornado passed.

First responders transformed the tractor warehouse into a triage center after the hospital was full.

“We had all the doors opened up, people coming in on pickup trucks, people laid out on the floors,” he said.

As cleanup continues, real concerns about Rolling Fork’s future are setting in.

Worshippers gather on the steps of the Rolling Fork United Methodist Church as damage is visible to surrounding properties, Sunday, March 26, 2023, in Rolling Fork, Miss. Emergency officials in Mississippi say several people have been killed by tornadoes that tore through the state on Friday night, destroying buildings and knocking out power as severe weather producing hail the size of golf balls moved through several Southern states. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Census data shows that 35% of the county lives in poverty, and no one wants to see the small farming community get even smaller.

“This is a resilient town and I think that we will survive,” farmer Paul Hollis said.

But another question he’s asking is, “Will we keep all our population here?”

The Small Business Administration is on the ground to help business owners apply for disaster loans.
State workers are also helping with applications for unemployment insurance at a food bank in town.

Harden said the faster they get the help, the better.

“The sooner we get a structure up, it’s going to make the community feel better about staying because people are nervous,” Harden said. “There’s nothing left. “

However, Harden said she’s staying.

“This is our home,” she said.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden on Friday will meet with first responders, officials and Rolling Fork residents whose lives have been forever changed by this tornado.

A statement from the White House says the president will reaffirm his commitment to helping Mississippi for however long it takes.


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