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At least 26 dead after tornado causes destruction across Mississippi and Alabama

More than two dozen dead after tornadoes hit South
More than two dozen dead after tornadoes sweep across South 02:35

At least 25 people are dead in Mississippi, and one person in Alabama, after a tornado touched down just after sundown Friday in a storm system that delivered twisters, heavy rain, wind gusts and hail as it traveled throughout the South.

The storm system ripped through Mississippi and produced a tornado that touched down and caused catastrophic damage to communities across the state. In Rolling Fork, a rural town about 60 miles northwest from the state capital of Jackson, what were once buildings are now piles of scattered debris. The twister moved northeast, devastating rural areas.

The National Weather Service confirmed the tornado caused damage about 60 miles northeast of Jackson, Mississippi. Silver City and Rolling Fork reported destruction as the tornado swept northeast at 70 mph without weakening, racing towards Alabama through towns including Winona and Amory into the night. 

Severe Weather Mississippi
Debris covers a damaged structure in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on March 25, 2023.  Rogelio Solis / AP

"Every trail in this town (is) gone," said Roger Cummings of Silver City, who said that his nephew was killed in the storm.

"We lost everything, but we got out alive," Silver City resident Rayford Thomas told CBS News Saturday.

Thomas has lived in Silver City's Old Town subdivision for about 30 years. However, on Friday night, he almost died in his home when the tornado ripped through the neighborhood.

"I just balled up to try to get into the tightest corner," Thomas said of when the tornado hit.

Thomas said his next door neighbor was killed when the tornado smashed a mobile home frame through his wall.

Ernestine Hill, 73, survived the tornado, but lost everything else, including her blood pressure medicine. She eventually located some of her medicine in the rubble. 

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said in a Twitter post Friday night that search and rescue teams were active and that officials were sending more ambulances and emergency assets to those affected. 

"Many in the MS Delta need your prayer and God's protection tonight," the post said. "Watch weather reports and stay cautious through the night, Mississippi!"

Officials like Reeves were pleading for help as residents survey damage left after the storm's wake, with the governor tweeting on Saturday that search and rescue teams "are still active" and that the loss will be "felt in these towns forever." 

Reeves issued a state of emergency in all counties affected by the storms on Saturday afternoon.

Mississippi tornado damage
In an aerial view, damage from a tornado is seen on March 25, 2023, in Rolling Fork, Mississippi.  Getty Images

President Biden issued a statement on Saturday addressing the destruction.

"Jill and I are praying for those who have lost loved ones in the devastating tornadoes in Mississippi and for those whose loved ones are missing," he said. "The images from across Mississippi are heartbreaking. While we are still assessing the full extent of the damage, we know that many of our fellow Americans are not only grieving for family and friends, they've lost their homes and businesses." 

Biden said that he had spoken to Reeves and other Mississippi legislators to offer "full federal support" to impacted communities. He also said that representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had already been deployed to the area. 

"We will do everything we can to help. We will be there as long as it takes. We will work together to deliver the support you need to recover," Biden added. 

Both Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas, and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, will travel to Mississippi to survey the damage Sunday, the White House said. 

Residents in Amory were under an emergency boil water notice Saturday after the city's water department "suffered a direct hit from the tornado," the city said in a statement.  

Forecasters have been warning about an outbreak of severe weather for days, even launching a weather balloon on Thursday. The deadly twisters come on the heels of damaging storms the region experienced on Thursday and Friday.

In Southern Missouri, a car with six teenagers inside was swept away by flood waters. Two of them did not survive.

At least two tornadoes swept through north Texas on Friday, with winds of 100 mph.

Eric Huntley dug through what was left of his home.

"Soon as I got the alert, I went to go look outside and then I heard the moan," he said of the storm. "I'll never forget that sound."

The storm also knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers across the Midwest and the Northeast. In Ohio, more than 359,000 customers were without power as of Saturday night, according to utility tracker, while more than 130,000 customers were without power in Pennsylvania. 

More than 14,000 customers in Mississippi and Alabama were still without power Saturday night. 

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