US declares emergency after tornado devastation in Mississippi

US President Joe Biden on Sunday declared an emergency for the state of Mississippi after powerful tornadoes and storms ripped through the region on Friday night.

At least 25 people were killed and dozens more injured in Mississippi and one more person was killed in the neighboring state of Alabama.

A White House statement said Biden’s decision will make “federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe, and Sharkey.”

The four counties were the worst-hit areas and account for all of the fatalities reported in Mississippi, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

The White House statement stated that Biden has appointed John Boyle, coordinating officer of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to “coordinate federal recovery operations in the affected areas.”

“Damage assessments are continuing in other areas, and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are fully completed,” the statement added.

Based on early data, the tornado received a preliminary EF-4 rating, the National Weather Service office in Jackson said late Saturday in a tweet. An EF-4 tornado has top wind gusts between 265 kph and 320 kph, according to the service. The Jackson office cautioned it was still gathering information on the tornado.

After the deadly tornado, US National Weather Service survey teams visited the damage and destruction left behind. What they found was catastrophic.

“I’ve been with the National Weather Service now for 28 years,” NWS Jackson meteorologist Bill Parker told FOX Weather late Saturday. “And this is probably the worst tornado damage assessment that I’ve ever seen. This is catastrophic.”

Radar analysis by FOX Weather showed that one tornado was on the ground for at least an hour and that radar scans estimated debris was tossed around six meters into the air over a tornado swirl of about 1.2 kilometers.

NBC reported Sunday that search and recovery crews resumed the daunting task of digging through the debris of flattened and battered homes, commercial buildings and municipal offices at sunrise, even as the National Weather Service warned of a risk of more severe weather Sunday — including high winds, large hail and possible tornadoes in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

A tornado reportedly touched down early Sunday in Troup County, Georgia, near the Alabama border, according to the Georgia Mutual Aid Group. “Many buildings damaged, people trapped,” GMAG said on Facebook, NBC reported. “If you do not have to get on the roads this morning please do not travel,” the agency said on Facebook.