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President Biden to visit Mississippi after deadly tornado strikes
In the aftermath of a deadly tornado that struck Mississippi on March 24, President Joseph Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Rolling Fork on Friday, March 31, the White House said in a press release Wednesday.
"The President and the First Lady will visit with first responders, state and local officials, and communities impacted by the devastation from recent storms, survey recovery efforts, and assess what additional Federal support is needed. Additional details to follow," the press release states.
Biden was asked in a Tuesday press conference in North Carolina if he planned go to Mississippi and he replied "Yes."
The EF-4 tornado all but flattened the town of Rolling Fork in the South Delta and killed 21 people as it moved through the state.
Silver City recovery
SILVER CITY — Humphreys County Supervisor Woodrow Johnson was organizing work crews out of a heavily damaged county building on Mississippi 3 in Silver City.
"That was a brand new tractor back there," Johnson said, pointing to a mangled hunk of metal. The tractor was turned upside down and landed next to another tractor, equally mangled.
Much of the debris is piled up along Silver City streets. Johnson said he and the supervisors are working on disaster declarations to get what they need to remove the hundreds of fallen trees and debris from damaged buildings.
Across the highway, Johnson's home was one of a few left standing after an EF-4 tornado tore through the town of a little more than 200 people, killing at least three and damaging or destroying most of the homes there.
Even though the house is standing, only one room was without damage.
"That was the room where my wife and I stayed in the tornado," Johnson said.
The county truck Johnson uses for work was damaged, too. It was battered by debris and most of the windows were shattered, but Johnson was able to visit constituents and see what they need.
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"What they need most right now is storage," he said. "They need a place to put their belongings."
Down the road was the house where Humphreys County School District instructor Rob Lee was killed when a nearby mobile home went through his house as he and his wife huddled in the bathroom.
"He lived for a good little while," Johnson said. "He called for help."
Silver City resident Freddie Deere also was killed in the tornado. His funeral, one of the first for the area's tornado victims, is set for Saturday in Belzoni.
Not far from the Lee home, 2-year-old Aubrey Green was killed while visiting at her grandmother's mobile home.
According to CNN, Aubrey's mother was giving birth at an area hospital Friday night.
Aubrey's cousin Caldwell Winston was at home with his mother when the tornado hit.
"I was here when it happened — at 8:32," he said. "I heard the wind coming through like a train and I hit the floor."
Neighbor Elton Cummings' home was still standing, but heavily damaged in the tornado. It slid one way and the foundation went another direction.
"I don't think I can fix that," he said. "I'll probably have to start all over."
Many Silver City residents like Cummings and Winston say they will rebuild.
"This is my home," Winston said. "I've been here my whole life. Everybody knows everybody here. We're all family."
WLBT and Gray Television day of giving
JACKSON — WLBT and its parent company, Gray Television, will host "Gray Day of Giving," Friday, March 31, a televised donation relief drive following devastating tornadoes in the Mississippi Delta. Gray stations in Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi will join in the relief drive efforts organized by WLBT.
The National Weather Service confirmed a total of seven tornadoes hit on March 24, claiming multiple lives, destroying homes and displacing hundreds. In Rolling Fork and Silver City, the tornado was recorded as an EF-4. Other affected areas experienced EF-3s and EF-1 tornadoes.
To help launch the "Gray Day of Giving," WLBT and Gray Television are making a $25,000 donation to jumpstart the donation efforts.
"Immediately following the tornadoes, we knew we had to organize a donation relief drive,” said Regional Vice President and General Manager Ted Fortenberry. “Mississippi has been hit with a lot of tornadoes over the years, but this is definitely one of the worst I’ve ever seen.”
When you donate to this "Gray Day of Giving," 100% of your donation is applied to the Salvation Army relief efforts for Mississippi. Donate now at gray.tv/relief or text MSTORNADOES to 51555 to make a monetary donation.
Update at 2:30: Bank foundation created to aid recovery
Ten Mississippi banks have come together to create a fund to help in the recovery efforts and create a foundation. The fund will be called The Heart of Delta Foundation.
Bank of Anguilla, BankPlus, CB&S Bank, Cleveland State Bank, Community Bank, Guaranty Bank, Planters Bank, Renasant Bank, Southern Bancorp and Trustmark banks each committed $10,000 to start the fund.
"We encourage banks throughout Mississippi and the nation to join us," Mississippi Bankers Association President Gordon Fellows said in a release.
The Federal Home Loan Bank in Dallas committed $250,000 of matching donations made to the foundation.
Contributions may be mailed to The Heart of the Delta Foundation, P.O. Box 145, Belzoni, MS, 39038. An online option will be made available soon.
Update at 2:20: Field hospital set up in Rolling Fork
The University of Mississippi Medical Center is deploying a mobile field hospital to Rolling Fork.
Large tents and other components necessary to create a field hospital are being set up Wednesday at the National Guard Armory in Rolling Fork. When it becomes fully operational on Friday, it will be the temporary home of the Delta Health Center hospital and medical clinic system for both Sharkey and Issaquena counties.
Update at 11:15: Belzoni event raises funds for disaster relief
Emily Donovan, who earlier this week, discovered a Muddy Waters guitar statue in the wreckage of Rolling Fork, also serves as president of nearby Belzoni's annual catfish festival.
Donovan announced that this year's festival, the World Catfish Festival in Belzoni, will be a fundraiser for Rolling Fork and Silver City disaster recovery.
The 46th annual festival is Saturday.
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10:40 a.m. FEMA warns of disaster recovery scams
Disaster survivors should be aware that con artists and criminals may try to obtain money or steal personal information through fraud or identity theft after a disaster. In some cases, thieves try to apply for FEMA assistance using names, addresses and Social Security numbers they have stolen from survivors.
If a FEMA Inspector comes to your home and you did not submit a FEMA application, your information may have been used without your knowledge to create a FEMA application. If so, please inform the inspector that you did not apply for FEMA assistance so they can submit a request to stop further processing of the application.
If you did not apply for assistance but receive a letter from FEMA, please call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362. The helpline will submit a request to stop any further processing of that application. If you do want to apply for FEMA assistance after stopping an application made in your name without your knowledge, the Helpline will assist you in creating a new application.
FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance teams, housing inspectors and other officials will be working in areas impacted by the March tornadoes in Mississippi. They carry official identification badges with photo IDs. FEMA and U.S. Small Business Administration representatives never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help in filling out applications.
Don’t believe anyone who promises a disaster grant in return for payment.
Be wary of unexpected phone calls or visits to your home from people claiming to be FEMA housing inspectors or people claiming they work for FEMA. FEMA representatives will have your FEMA application number.
Don’t give your banking information to a person claiming to be a FEMA housing inspector. FEMA inspectors are never authorized to collect your personal financial information.
If you believe you are the victim of a scam, report it immediately to law enforcement authorities.
If you suspect fraudulent activity involving FEMA, you can report it to the FEMA Fraud Branch at StopFEMAFraud@fema.dhs.gov, fax: (202) 212-4926 or write to: FEMA Fraud and Internal Investigation Division, 400 C Street SW Mail Stop 3005, Washington, DC 20472-3005.
If you suspect identity theft, please visit IdentityTheft.gov.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Cleanup underway after Mississippi tornado kills 3 in Silver City