Heartbroken family members are picking up the pieces and mourning their loved ones after massive tornadoes devastated a Mississippi town, killing 26 people including a baby and a couple who died in each other’s arms.
Lonnie and Melissa Pierce were tragically killed when the vicious twister dropped their neighbor’s 18-wheeler on their house in the middle of the night in Rolling Fork.
Their heartbroken son David Brown told WAPT as he wept: ‘Words cant express how I’m feeling. I’m just broken and I’m numb.’
Brown said he had wished he had spent more time with his parents the day before they died, adding that he still has to tell his son about what happened.
‘I was told they passed away in each other’s arms,’ he said as tears streamed down his face. Regaining his composure, Brown added that he needed to stay strong for his family and said he felt comfort knowing that ‘they are in Heaven right now.’
Other survivors helped pull out dead bodies from the debris that has been described as a ‘war zone.’ The death toll has risen to 26 as the massive tornado ripped through Rolling Fork and other small towns on its hour-long path.
Melissa and Lonnie Pierce ‘passed away in each other’s arms,’ their son told the local news
David Brown broke down in tears as he shared that his parents Lonnie and Melissa Pierce died when the vicious twister dropped an 18-wheeler on their house in Rolling Fork
James Brown, standing, surveys the damage at the home of his sister Melissa Pierce and her husband, L.A. Pierce, on 7th Street in Rolling Fork, where an 18-wheeler (pictured in the background) crushed their house. Their son Dave Brown is pictured sitting on the ground
The tornado devastated a swath of the 2,000-person town of Rolling Fork, reducing homes to piles of rubble and flipping cars on their sides.
Seventh Street, where Lonnie and Melissa Pierce lived, was completely destroyed. All 20 homes on the street – with about 80 residents total – were a complete loss, The Clarion Ledger reported.
John Brewer and his wife Joyce, neighbors of the Pierce’s, were in their home when it the storm hit.
Brewer’s 27,000-pound 18-wheeler truck was parked next to the house and was picked up by the twister and dropped on Lonnie and Melissa’s house, killing them.
Brewer said that he discovered his boat trailed had been flung into another neighbor’s property, but the boat was found two miles away.
‘You look down this street and see the houses. I’m surprised anyone survived,’ Brewer told the local paper. ‘If the rest of the town is like this, there could be hundreds of people killed.’
Rolling Fork residents came out in full force to help their community – which even meant digging out dead bodies from beneath crushed homes.
‘I thought I was dead,’ Rolling Fork resident Shanta Howard told WAPT.
‘We had to help dead bodies out of the house, so that is very disturbing. Actually seeing people losing their lives over a weather incident.’
Ezell Williams cries while talking about the damage caused to his properties and those of his neighbors in Rolling Fork
The tornado devastated a swath of the 2,000-person town of Rolling Fork, reducing homes to piles of rubble and flipping cars on their sides
Two trucks are seen on piles of debris after the tornado swept through Rolling Fork on Friday
A truck rests atop a pile of debris after it was damaged by the Friday night tornado that hit
President Biden declared a state of emergency in Mississippi on Sunday
This March 25, 2023 still image taken from a video by storm-chaser Lloyd Bridges and posted in the Eurovision News Wire, shows tornado damage in Rolling Fork
Rolling Fork residents, including Shanta Howard – came out in full force to help their community – which even meant digging out dead bodies from beneath crushed homes
A support beam pokes through the driver’s side window of a vehicle severely damaged by the Friday night tornado that hit Rolling Folk, Miss., and destroyed whole neighborhoods
An aerial view of destroyed property after thunderstorms spawning high straight-line winds and tornadoes ripped across the state in Rolling Fork, Mississippi
Seventh Street, where Lonnie and Melissa Pierce lived, was completely destroyed. All 20 homes on the street – with about 80 residents total – were a complete loss
Kelly Perry and his wife were pinned under debris after their Rolling Fork home was hit
Kelly Perry and his wife were pinned under debris after their Rolling Fork home was hit by the tornado, Accuweather reported.
‘If we wouldn’t have been in the closet, we wouldn’t be here right now,’ he said.
Their neighbors on their street survived, but friends a few blocks away did not make it out, they said.
In Wren, Mississippi, a young family has been left heartbroken after the tragic loss of Ethan Herndon, 33, and baby Riley Herndon, who was just a year old.
A GoFundMe set up by a Mississippi resident for the Herndon family, states that Ethan’s wife, Elizabeth, and their two other children, Brantley, 7, and Aubrey, 4, were left seriously injured when the tornado struck but managed to survive.
‘This sweet family is physically and emotionally shattered,’ the GoFundMe reads.
‘They have suffered the most painful and terrifying loss any of us can imagine, and their needs are obvious and great’.
Elizabeth suffered multiple injuries including a broken arm and leg, and a dislocated hip. Their son Brantley as airlifted to LeBonheur Hospital with broken bones, a lacerated liver, and a punctured lung. Their daughter Aubrey suffered a broken elbow and a possible broken ankle.
As of Sunday morning, the fundraiser page had raised over $100,000 from a $30,000 goal.
In Wren, Mississippi, a young family has been left heartbroken after the tragic loss of Ethan Herndon, 33, and baby Riley Herndon (center) who was just a year old
A pickup truck sits on top of the wreckage of Chuck’s Dairy Cafe after thunderstorms spawning high straight-line winds and tornadoes ripped across the state
People worship on the steps of the Rolling Fork United Methodist Church, right, as damage is visible to surrounding properties, Sunday, March 26, 2023
Church members Ashley Nichols, left, and Dale White hug each other prior to the Sunday morning service
Members of the First Baptist Church of Rolling Fork embrace after a tough week for the community
Ethan (right) was killed in the storm and his wife, Elizabeth, (left) was injured along with their two other children, Brantley, 7, and Aubrey, 4
President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration for Mississippi early Sunday, making federal funding available to the areas hardest hit by the deadly tornado that ripped through the Mississippi Delta, one of the poorest regions of the U.S.
Search and recovery crews on Sunday resumed the daunting task of digging through the debris of flattened and battered homes, commercial buildings and municipal offices after hundreds of people were displaced, 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. Affected areas included the county seat of LaGrange, about 67 miles southwest of Atlanta.
‘Many buildings damaged, people trapped,’ GMAG said on Facebook. In nearby West Point, roads, including Interstate Highway 85, were blocked by debris.
Emergency services will have to dig through the debris left behind by the tornado, which flattened one town and obliterated homes and businesses
SEI*149735078 A law enforcement officer cuts a tree with a chainsaw to free a trapped police vehicle after thunderstorms spawning high straight-line winds and tornadoes ripped through
The remains of a house and cars are entangled in tree limbs in Rolling Fork, Mississippi
The Troup County Sheriff’s Office said it was responding to reports of downed trees and power lines and damaged homes. A tiger was reported missing at the Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain. Calls there were not answered early Sunday.
‘If you do not have to get on the roads this morning please do not travel,’ the agency said on Facebook.
Some outages in cell service were reported after a suspected tornado struck the area around dawn Sunday, the Troup County Sheriff´s Office said.
Following Biden’s declaration, federal funding can be used for recovery efforts in Mississippi’s Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe and Sharkey counties, including temporary housing, home repairs, loans covering uninsured property losses and other individual and business programs, the White House said in a statement.
The twister flattened entire blocks, obliterated houses, ripped a steeple off a church and toppled a municipal water tower.
In Amory, Mississippi, the tornado was seen tearing apart Amory High School.
Rain streamed into the hallways as wiring also came down from up above.
On the walls, work by students and posters put up by teachers appear to hold firm, as does pictures of the school staff, despite flapping around in the extreme winds.
The footage last for a full 20 seconds before the clip finally ends.
A corridor at Amory High School is seen moments before the powerful tornado struck
Moments later, the tornado unleashed its fury as ceiling panels came crashing to the floor with foam insulation being blown along the corridor
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 166 mph and 200 mph, according to the service. The Jackson office cautioned it was still gathering information on the tornado.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a briefing that 25 people were confirmed killed, 55 people were injured and 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. High winds, hail and strong storms were expected for parts of Alabama and Georgia on Sunday, the National Weather Service said.
‘How anybody survived is unknown by me,’ said Rodney Porter, who lives 20 miles south of Rolling Fork. When the storm hit Friday night, he immediately drove there to assist in any way he could. Porter arrived to find ‘total devastation’ and said he smelled natural gas and heard people screaming for help in the dark.
‘Houses are gone, houses stacked on top of houses with vehicles on top of that,’ he said.
A car rests on debris of a flattened town of Rolling Fork after the twister ripped through
The twister destroyed buildings and knocked out power as severe weather produced hail the size of golf balls moved through several southern states
Only the shell of a house remains after a massive tornado tore through the area Friday
Several neighborhoods are flattened and at least 26 people are dead after the storm
A truck is perched high on a mountain of debris as crews begin to clean up the area
Annette Body drove to the hard-hit town of Silver City from nearby Belozi to survey the damage. She said she was feeling ‘blessed’ because her own home was not destroyed, but other people she knows lost everything.
‘Cried last night, cried this morning,’ she said, looking around at flattened homes. ‘They said you need to take cover, but it happened so fast a lot of people didn’t even get a chance to take cover.’
Storm survivors walked around Saturday, many dazed and in shock, as they broke through thickly clustered debris and fallen trees with chain saws, searching for survivors. Power lines were pinned under decades-old oaks, their roots torn from the ground.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued a state of emergency and vowed to help rebuild as he viewed the damage in a region speckled with wide expanses of cotton, corn and soybean fields and catfish farming ponds. He spoke with Biden, who also held a call with the state’s congressional delegation.
More than a half-dozen shelters were opened in Mississippi to house those who have been displaced.
Jakhia Stamps, 16, sorts through belongings in the wreckage of her grandmother’s home after thunderstorms spawning high straight-line winds and tornadoes ripped across the state
The remains of a house and cars are entangled in tree limbs in Rolling Fork, Mississippi
Preliminary information based on estimates from storm reports and radar data indicate the tornado was on the ground for more than an hour and traversed at least 170 miles, said Lance Perrilloux, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Jackson, Mississippi, office.
‘That’s rare – very, very rare,’ he said, attributing the long path to widespread atmospheric instability.
Perrilloux said preliminary findings showed the tornado began its path of destruction just southwest of Rolling Fork before continuing northeast toward the rural communities of Midnight and Silver City and onward toward Tchula, Black Hawk and Winona.
The supercell that produced the deadly twister also appeared to produce tornadoes causing damage in northwest and north-central Alabama, said Brian Squitieri, a severe storms forecaster with the weather service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
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