A woman described the harrowing ordeal she experienced after becoming trapped in debris created by the recent tornadoes that ravaged parts of Mississippi.
On Friday night, a powerful storm system wreaked havoc across the state, as well as parts of Northern Alabama, generating multiple tornadoes that caused widespread damage and devastation. As of Saturday afternoon, a total of 23 people were confirmed to have been killed by the storm, with a further four reported to be missing and dozens more left injured.
One of the places most heavily impacted by the tornadoes was Rolling Fork, a small town northwest of Jackson with a population of fewer than 1,800 people. As described by the town’s mayor, Eldridge Walker, in an emotional interview with CNN, a large portion of it was destroyed by a tornado that ripped through on Friday. Rescue efforts are now underway in Rolling Fork, with one resident, Gail Barfield, speaking with Weather Channel correspondent Reynolds Wolf on Saturday about becoming trapped under the debris of her home alongside her husband.
“I heard the wind when it began to pick up, so that’s when I got in the closet,” Barfield said. “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.”
Barfield continued: “When he managed to get out and come looking for me, he kept telling me to keep talking so he could find me where I was, and I kept talking to him. He tried to get me out, but I could see that he was getting over worked up, and so I told him to stop and wait for help.”
The Weather Channel also reported that Barfield’s vehicle appeared to have been thrown across her front yard by the storm, while her husband’s truck was flipped over. The National Weather Service (NWS) warned in the leadup to the storm that it had the potential to generate winds strong enough to lift mobile homes.
In a phone interview with CNN, Walker discussed the destruction caused by the storm in Rolling Fork and emphasized that his priority was getting residents to safety.
“Devastation, as I look from left to right, that’s all I see,” he said. “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 confirmed that a number of people, like Barfield, had been found in the debris and delivered to treatment centers for triage.
When reached for comment by Newsweek, the office of Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves confirmed on Saturday that he was traveling to parts of the state affected by the storm and posting updates to his social media accounts. On Twitter, Reeves’s official account has already confirmed his pronouncement of a state of emergency and that the state has submitted a request for a disaster declaration from the federal government.