‘Leveled’: Responders, residents describe horror of Mississippi tornado destruction
Written by ABC Audio All Rights Reserved on March 25, 2023
(WINONA, Miss.) — As a deadly tornado barrelled toward Winona, Mississippi, late on Friday, one local family scrambled for safety inside their home.
“Obviously it was coming right behind us because as soon as we got in there, we heard a big boom and didn’t hear anything else for a little while,” a local man told ABC News affiliate WTVA.
He added, “So we walked out and then just came out to about 10 trees down in our yard.”
The strong and deadly tornado cut eastward across the state, destroying homes and ruining infrastructure. It touched down in cities 100 miles apart within about an hour. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said at least 23 people were dead. Four others were reported missing.
First responders on Saturday morning searched through the destruction, looking for victims. The United Cajun Navy President Todd Terrell said the town of “Rolling Fork is leveled. It’s pretty much devastated.”
In an interview with “GMA” on Saturday, Edgar O’Neal, a storm chaser who was on the ground in Rolling Fork, described the scene as “complete and utter devastation.”
“Houses gone. Gas stations destroyed. Trees, power lines blocking entrances everywhere,” he said. “Stray animals, people wandering the streets clearly in shock. Lots of people out there in the community helping.”
One Rolling Fork resident told WAPT that residents lost a lot more than their homes.
“I thought I was dead,” Rolling Fork resident Shanta Howard said.
“We had to help dead bodies out of the house, so that is very disturbing,” Howard said. “Actually seeing people losing their lives over a weather incident.”
Yazoo County Coroner Ricky Shivers, who is leading the response team of six corners in Rolling Fork, told ABC News he is anticipating a “really severe” death toll.
“It’s going to be catastrophic,” he said.
When asked about the damage to the town, his response was two words: “Completely devastated.” He said his team of six corners “will be prepared to get in high gear at daylight.”
The strength of the tornado, as well as its path, created a devastating result, he said.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.