Mississippi sheriff: It will take ‘years’ to rebuild after tornadoes

  • A powerful tornado ripped through Mississippi, killing multiple people
  • Volunteers have come to the area to help with cleanup
  • Recovery from the storm, one sheriff says, could take a while

(NewsNation) — On Tuesday morning, the people of Mississippi continued the enormous task of cleaning up their communities following deadly tornadoes that ripped through the area over the weekend.

More than 20 people died and hundreds of homes were damaged in the weekend storms, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Now, in the places that were the hardest hit, such as Rolling Fork in Sharkey County, residents are returning to their homes, looking at them in disbelief and trying to figure out what, if anything, they can salvage.

“The mayor says they are going to rebuild bigger and better,” one resident, Ollie Christmas, said. “I hope so, and I believe so, because that’s what Rolling Fork needs.”

In the meantime, dozens of out-of-town volunteers have rushed in to help, providing food, water, supplies a helping hand.

Even complete strangers have dropped everything to assist in recovery efforts.

Sheriff Lindsey David Adams Jr. said on “Morning in America” that a lot of people who lost their houses during the storms are living with relatives or friends, while others have been put up in motels throughout the state, in Greenville or Vicksburg.

“(We’re) just doing what we got to do to make sure everybody is not just sleeping outside,” Adams said. “Right now, we’re doing a pretty good job at it.”

While he didn’t want to put an exact date on when cleanup will be completed, Adams did acknowledge that, “It’s going to be awhile.”

“It’s going to be years,” he said. “Right now, we’re holding on. Just got a long road ahead of us.”

Charlie Weissinger, tosses away the paneling from one of the desks in his father’s demolished law office in Rolling Fork, Miss., Saturday, March 25, 2023. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

For some residents, this was not the first severe weather event they’ve faced.

Pastor Bob Gilliland has survived not one, but two tornadoes now. One destroyed his home back in December — and this most recent storm swiped the new home he moved into.

Still, he hasn’t lost his faith.

“We survived two tornadoes in three months, and we have not a scratch from either of them,” Gilliland, of Deer Creek Baptist Church, said. “My God is good. He has something left for me to do.”

Now, the church in Rolling Fork is a refuge in a neighborhood where nearly every house is leveled. Anyone can come by for food, water, clothes and comfort.

Mary Womble, a member of the Deer Creek Baptist congregation, recalled that as the tornado barreled into her home, all she could do was pray.

She hid in the bathroom with her daughter. Now, that’s one of the only rooms left standing in the home she previously had for 38 years.

Womble’s neighbors did not survive.

“It’s hard — you just can’t make sense of it,” she told NewsNation.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has issued a state of emergency in affected areas of the state. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has already approved a disaster declaration, which opens up federal relief funding for Mississippi.

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