Tornado strikes Rolling Fork, Anguilla leaving damage to homes, injured people

Published 9:00 pm Friday, March 24, 2023

A tornado hit Rolling Fork and several other towns in the South Delta Friday night, leaving a path of destruction, injuries and at least one person dead in its wake.

Christopher Rainer, with the National Weather Service office in Jackson, verified that Rolling Fork took a direct hit and that there was structural damage. Late Friday night, the Yazoo County Sheriff’s Office reported one person had been killed in Silver City, which is located 30 miles northwest of Rolling Fork and was also hit by the tornado. The person was identified as an adult male, but their name was not released.

Video footage on social media and other outlets filtered in late Friday and showed widespread damage in Rolling Fork. Initial reports indicated a number of people trapped in damaged homes, gas leaks and downed power lines.

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Cornel Knight told The Associated Press that he, his wife and their 3-year-old daughter were at a relative’s home in Rolling Fork when the tornado struck. He said the sky was dark but “you could see the direction from every transformer that blew.”

He said it was “eerily quiet” as that happened. Knight said he watched from a doorway until the tornado was, he estimated, less than a mile away. Then he told everyone in the house to take cover in a hallway. He said the tornado struck another relative’s home across a wide corn field from where he was. A wall in that home collapsed and trapped several people inside.

A call also came over police scanners reporting that the Sharkey County 911 office took a direct hit, as did the home of Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker. In an interview with WLBT-TV about 30 minutes after the storm hit, Walker said an unspecified number of injuries have been reported and he was trapped in his home by downed power lines. Eldridge was later able to leave his damaged home and was reportedly assisting first responders.

“I am on the north side of town and what has happened, we have been hit by a tornado,” Walker told WLBT-TV. “It’s clear that a lot of damage has been done here. My home has been hit. My garage and the west side of my home has been destroyed. It’s leaking inside my home, but I am more concerned about what’s happening outside in the community.”

Chuck’s Dairy Bar is also suspected to have sustained damage from the storm but reports have not been confirmed.

First responders from neighboring communities — including Warren County, the city of Vicksburg and Issaquena County — made their way to Rolling Fork to assist with search and rescue efforts. The injured were sent to Merit Health River Region hospital in Vicksburg, as well as hospitals in Greenville and Jackson, for treatment. The Sharkey-Issaquena Community Hospital in Rolling Fork was damaged.

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. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has deployed teams to the area.

“They’re asking for a full task force to go to that area, particularly in Rolling Fork, along with state health assets that are heading up to the local hospital,” said Malary White, communications officer for MEMA. “They’re not focusing on the number of houses that are down; we’re counting the people that are there. Life safety is our number one priority.”

Additionally, White said FEMA has already been alerted and is monitoring the situation.

The tornado struck Rolling Fork at approximately 8 p.m. The rural towns of Silver City and Rolling Fork were reporting destruction as the tornado continued sweeping northeast at 70 mph without weakening, racing towards Alabama through towns including Winona and Amory into the night.

This is a developing story.