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Extreme weather meets reality of poverty to create tragedy in Mississippi

The tornado that struck Rolling Fork was also an intense, fast-moving storm that struck under cover of night, when visibility is poor and people are more likely to be sleepy and caught off guard.

“All of these different factors came together to create the perfect storm, and unfortunately we’ve seen the results of that,” Strader said.

Matt Laubhan, Mississippi meteorologist with NBC affiliate WTVA, said Mississippi sees a lot of tornadoes, including a devastating EF-5 nearly 12 years ago. He noted that some areas affected by these storms have received funding for emergency shelters, but none of these structures exist in Rolling Fork.

“When you talk about Rolling Fork, it’s a much more economically depressed area,” Laubhan told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. “And this is a place that didn’t have those kinds of communal shelters.”

Robert Bradford, director of the Adams County, Mississippi, Emergency Management Agency, which helps coordinate response efforts, said Rolling Fork does not have a community safe.

As the storm evolved on Friday, William Gallus, professor of meteorology at Iowa State University, said his worst fears had come true. In addition to forming at night, the tornado had a long and rare track, cutting 59 miles across Mississippi. Less than 1% of tornadoes remain on the ground for more than 50 miles.

“If there’s a tornado outbreak at night and it’s in the Southeast, you know there’s going to be people seriously injured or killed and the best thing to do is hope the tornadoes spin off. in the needle and lack real small towns,” he said.

In the southeast, mobile homes are particularly vulnerable to tornadoes, which are rated on what’s called the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale. The weakest tornadoes, or EF-0 and EF-1, have winds of up to 110 mph and generally cause relatively light damage. The most powerful tornadoes, or EF-5s, have winds over 200 mph and usually cause catastrophic damage.

Preliminary investigations suggest the tornado that struck Rolling Fork had winds of 170 mph, and the storm was rated EF-4 by the National Weather Service in Jackson, Mississippi.


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