Deadly Mississippi tornado and severe storms sweep south

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves speaks during his State of the State address to a joint session of the Mississippi Legislature on the steps of the state Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi on January 30. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and state emergency officials are heading to hard-hit Sharkey County in the west of the state, near the Arkansas-Louisiana border.

Several state agencies are “also responding to the devastating tornadoes that swept across the state overnight,” according to a press release from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). The agency said “life safety is the number one priority and damage assessments will begin soon.”

“I just completed the command briefing with our disaster response team,” Reeves tweeted Saturday morning. “Devastating damage – as everyone knows. It’s a tragedy. I’m on my way to Sharkey County to be with the first touchdowns,” he said.

The 23 storm fatalities reported so far in the state are in Sharkey, Humphreys, CarrollAnd Monroe counties. There are still “dozens” of injured people and at least four people missing, according to state emergency officials.

“Life safety is the number one priority and damage assessments will begin soon,” MEMA said, adding that multiple state agencies are responding across Mississippi.

Department of Transport Damaged: Although there were no reports of damaged roads in the Sharkey County area, a Mississippi Department of Transportation campus was significantly damaged, MEMA said.

The hub is located near the small town of Rolling Fork, which was ravaged by the storm.

“Some MDOT employees have damaged and/or lost homes in the Rolling Fork area,” MEMA said. Despite this, “some of those whose homes were damaged showed up overnight to keep the roads in the area clear and safe.”

According to the statement, large trucks are being diverted around Rolling Fork due to weak or damaged power lines. The electric company is working on making repairs.

“Humphreys County is using its multipurpose building as a shelter. The American Red Cross will set up a shelter at the Greenville Multipurpose Center. The Red Cross is also providing food, offering one thousand breakfast meals, one thousand lunch meals and thousand meals for dinner,” MEMA said.

Federal resources: A FEMA team is also heading to the county, according to MEMA.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorks said his department will “provide support to affected communities” through the FEMA team.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the communities in Mississippi who have been hit by the devastating tornadoes,” Mayorkas said in a tweet, adding that he had been in touch with Governor Reeves and state lawmakers.

CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez, Nick Valencia and Jessica Jordan contributed reporting.


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