The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) posted on Sunday aerial footage showing a neighborhood that has been decimated by a strong tornado that swept through the state, leaving at least 25 dead and dozens injured.
The short video showed the severity of the destruction from the storm on Friday in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, with debris shown scattered around, downed trees, and damaged buildings and vehicles.
Before hitting Mississippi, the National Weather Service (NWS) warned that the storm represented “a life-threatening situation,” which would create winds strong enough to move mobile homes and send deadly debris flying through the air.
The tornado received a preliminary EF-4 rating, the NWS office in Jackson, Mississippi, tweeted late Saturday. An EF-4 tornado has top wind gusts between 166 and 200 miles per hour, according to the NWS.
In response to the state’s dire situation, President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for Mississippi on Sunday and approved federal funding to the areas hardest hit by the deadly tornado. Federal funding is now available for impacted individuals in Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe and Sharkey counties.
Rolling Fork, a town of fewer than 1,800 residents located northwest of Jackson, has also been severely damaged. One Rolling Fork resident, Gail Barfield, was trapped under the debris of her home alongside her husband as the tornadoes wrecked havoc.
“I heard the wind when it began to pick up, so that’s when I got in the closet,” Barfield told Weather Channel correspondent Reynolds Wolf as she recalled her experience on Saturday. “After that, I just heard stuff crashing in. I actually thought this tree behind me had fell on the house, but it wasn’t, it was the wall to the bedroom [that] had caved into the closet that I was in.”
Eldridge Walker, the town’s mayor, spoke with CNN about how Rolling Fork has been impacted, saying “devastation, as I look from left to right, that’s all I see.”
“A lot of families here are affected, a lot of families are hurting. This community is in a situation we never expected, but right now what’s important to me is that these folks are taken care of, that our families who have been trapped are rescued and taken to hospitals for emergency care,” Walker said. “My city…my city is gone. But we’re resilient, and we’re going to come back. We’re going to come back strong.”
Meanwhile, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves issued statements about the storm’s impact on Twitter on Saturday, declaring a state of emergency.
“The loss will be felt in these towns forever,” Reeves said. “Please pray for God’s hand to be over all who lost family and friends.”
In another tweet on Saturday, the governor said: “We have submitted our major disaster declaration. The scale of the damage and loss is evident everywhere affected today. Homes, businesses…entire communities. Respond, Recover, Rebuild together. That is the mission.”
The federal funding approved by Biden can be used for grants for temporary housing and home repairs, loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and businesses recover, the White House said in a statement. Additionally, FEMA coordinating officer John Boyle has been appointed to coordinate federal recovery operations in the affected areas.
Reeves said that he spoke with Biden on Saturday, adding that he was reassured that the state would receive the federal support it needs.
“I just spoke with President Biden about the deadly tornadoes we faced overnight. He assured us FEMA would be there to support our response. The flood of support from governors, businesses, charities, and federal admin has been tremendous—matches the community here on the ground,” Reeves tweeted.
Newsweek reached out to Nolan Atkins, an expert in meteorology and severe storms, by email for comment.