(CNN) — At least 24 people were killed, dozens injured and four missing after powerful storms and at least one tornado swept the Southeast Friday night, ripping off roofs from homes, nearly leveling some neighborhoods and cutting off thousands of power, officials said.
The larger storm system is pushing east Saturday morning.
Speaking to officials after the deadly tornadoes, President Joe Biden said he is praying “for those who lost loved ones in the devastating tornadoes in Mississippi and for those whose loved ones are missing.”
Biden also pledged in the statement to “focus our federal assistance where it is needed most urgently.”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has declared a state of emergency in all counties affected by the severe storms, according to a press release.
“I am devastated by the destruction and loss of life these storms have caused,” Reeves said. He pledged that the state of Mississippi would do whatever it takes to send resources to those in need and help them rebuild.
And Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a tweet that his department will “support affected communities in Mississippi” through FEMA.
Mayorkas has spoken with Reeves, Mississippi Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith and Rep. Bennie Thompson about responding to the storm.
“The loss will forever be felt in these cities. Please pray that God’s hand is upon all who have lost family and friends,” Reeves tweeted.
“We have numerous local and state search and rescue teams continuing to work this morning. A number of resources are on site to help those affected,” said the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
Search and rescue efforts for storm victims began after a Tornado confirmed hit the towns of Silver City and Rolling Fork, the latter of which was described by one resident as having been wiped out.
Rolling Fork, Mississippi, a town of fewer than 2,000 people at risk of constant flooding, was named by blues singer Muddy Waters as his hometown.
Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker says his “town is gone”.
“As we speak, rescue operations are taking place,” the mayor told CNN on Saturday morning.
The tornado was moving at 50 miles per hour when it was over the city just after 8 p.m. CT, the National Weather Service said.
According to Walker, many buildings and homes in the city were leveled by the storm. “There are some structures that remain – some are not as damaged as others,” he said.
“We will come back strong. Demolished homes can be replaced,” said Walker, who urged residents to remain in place while rescue teams continue to search the area.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Brandy Showah told CNN. “It was a really great little town, and now it’s gone.”
One resident said she and several others took cover in a freezer the moment the tornado struck.
“This box is our freezer … it saved our lives,” said Tracy Harden, owner of Chuck’s Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork.
And Jeremy McCoy, the Yazoo County Police Officer who went to neighboring Rolling Fork to help with tornado damage, said the town now looks “like a landfill.”
At least 13 deaths have been recorded about 60 miles northwest of Jackson in hard-hit Sharkey County, home of Rolling Fork, according to coroner Angelia Easton.
Three others were killed and at least two people are in critical condition in Humphreys County, Emergency Management Director Royce Steed told CNN early Saturday morning.
Three people died in a home in Carroll County, coroner Mark Stiles told CNN, adding they appear to have been killed in a tornado. In addition, two people were killed in Monroe County in northeastern Mississippi, Coroner Alan Gurley said.
The tornado damaged homes and buildings, gutted trees and downed power lines in the area, Showah told CNN.
Showah’s grandmother’s home suffered roof damage and the air conditioners were ripped out, Showah said, but her grandmother is safe. Most of the trees in her grandmother’s garden were felled, including one that her grandfather planted 50 years ago.
“My friend was trapped in her house a few doors down, but we got her out,” Showah said, adding that there are still people who live next door to their grandmother who are trapped in their homes. She said all electricity in her grandmother’s area was out.
The severe storms carved a devastating path through the region, locking people in their homes and cutting power in Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi.
A Morgan County, Alabama man was killed after being trapped in his RV Friday night, according to Morgan County Emergency Management’s Brandy Davis.
Fallen trees and storm debris littered and blocked roads. Homes and buildings were nearly leveled, with household appliances, furniture and clothing lying where the walls or roofs of houses once stood, videos from the scene show.
The same “large and destructive” tornado was also confirmed near the township of Coila, according to the National Weather Service issued a tornado emergency – the most dangerous type of tornado warning – in Rolling Fork, Silver City and nearby Anguilla.
There have been at least 11 tornado reports over Mississippi and Alabama in the past 24 hours, according to the Storm Prediction Center. These reports include the storm that hit Rolling Fork, Silver City and Winona, Mississippi.
It’s still unclear whether the destruction is the result of a long-track tornado or multiple tornadoes.
Power outage in parts of 3 states
In response to the devastation in Mississippi, the state has activated its medical support efforts, including additional ambulances and other emergency resources for those affected by the onslaught of deadly storms, Reeves tweeted late Friday.
“Search and rescue is active,” Reeves wrote. “Many on MS Delta need your prayers and God’s protection tonight.”
Tornadoes, or severe storms, that occur at night have the greatest potential for danger because people are less likely to be notified in time when they are asleep.
The threat of storms continued overnight for certain areas of northern Alabama and central Tennessee, which were subject to tornado sightings and warnings early Saturday.
The storms have powered more than 83,000 homes and businesses in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee as of 8:50 a.m. ET, with more than 47,000 outages reported in Tennessee alone, according to tracking site PowerOutage.us.
In Morgan County, Alabama, storm debris stretched for a mile, according to a tweet from the county sheriff’s office.
First responders rescued seven people trapped in a group home when trees and power lines collapsed on homes, the sheriff’s office said. The agency also responded to an overturned trailer and RV with people trapped inside.
The South braces for a storm weekend
More than 20 million people are at risk of severe storms across much of the South and parts of the Midwest on Sunday. The main threats will be destructive winds, hail and isolated tornadoes as the storm leaves the east coast Saturday night.
A Level 3 out of 5 risk for severe storms has been issued for parts of east Louisiana, south-central Mississippi and south-central Alabama.
Several rounds of storms are possible during the day on Sunday. The first round of severe storms is likely to continue Sunday morning across parts of Alabama and Georgia, bringing a risk of large hail. Those storms will then move east into the Carolinas through Sunday afternoon, posing a damaging wind hazard.
More storms are expected to form in parts of east Texas Sunday afternoon and are expected to advance to Louisiana, Mississippi and eventually Alabama by the afternoon and evening.
A Level 1 of 5 threat includes Rolling Fork and Silver City, Mississippi, which were badly damaged by a tornado Friday night.
Flooding could also be a threat in parts of the south with an additional 2 to 4 inches of rain possible through Sunday.
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