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Daunting Recovery Underway in Miss.    03/27 06:01

   Help began pouring into one of the poorest regions of the U.S. after a 
deadly tornado tore a path of destruction for more than an hour across a long 
swath of Mississippi, even as furious new storms Sunday struck across the Deep 
South.

   ROLLING FORK, Miss. (AP) -- Help began pouring into one of the poorest 
regions of the U.S. after a deadly tornado tore a path of destruction for more 
than an hour across a long swath of Mississippi, even as furious new storms 
Sunday struck across the Deep South.

   At least 25 people were killed and dozens of others were injured in 
Mississippi as the massive storm ripped through more than a half-dozen towns 
late Friday. A man was also killed in Alabama after his trailer home flipped 
over several times.

   "Everything I can see is in some state of destruction," said Jarrod Kunze, 
who drove to the hard-hit Mississippi town of Rolling Fork from his home in 
Alabama, ready to help "in whatever capacity I'm needed."

   Kunze was among volunteers working Sunday at a staging area, where bottled 
water and other supplies were being readied for distribution.

   Search and recovery crews resumed the daunting task of digging through 
flattened and battered homes, commercial buildings and municipal offices after 
hundreds of people were displaced.

   The storm hit so quickly that the sheriff's department in Rolling Fork 
barely had time to set off sirens to warn the community of 2,000 residents, 
said Mayor Eldridge Walker.

   "And by the time they initiated the siren, the storm had hit and it tore 
down the siren that's located right over here," Walker said, referring to an 
area just blocks from downtown.

   The mayor said his town was devastated.

   "Sharkey County, Mississippi, is one of the poorest counties in the state of 
Mississippi, but we're still resilient," he said. "We've got a long way to go, 
and we certainly thank everybody for their prayers and for anything they will 
do or can do for this community."

   President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration for Mississippi early 
Sunday, making federal funding available to hardest hit areas.

   "Help is on the way," Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said at a news conference 
with local, state and federal leaders.

   Recovery efforts in Mississippi were underway even as the National Weather 
Service warned of a new risk of more severe weather Sunday -- including high 
winds, large hail and possible tornadoes in Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and 
Alabama.

   A tornado 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 (108 kilometers) southwest 
of Atlanta

   About 100 buildings were damaged, with at least 30 uninhabitable, and five 
people suffered minor injuries, officials said. Many roads, including 
Interstate Highway 85, were blocked by debris.

   Two tigers briefly escaped from their enclosures at Wild Animal Safari in 
Pine Mountain, Georgia, after the park sustained extensive tornado damage. 
"Both have now been found, tranquilized, and safely returned to a secure 
enclosure," the park said on Facebook. None of its employees or animals were 
hurt, it said.

   Outside of Rolling Fork, a tornado ripped apart the home where Kimberly 
Berry lived in the Delta flatlands. The twister left only a foundation and a 
few belongings -- a toppled refrigerator, a dresser and nightstand, a bag of 
Christmas decorations, some clothing.

   Berry said she and her 12-year-old daughter huddled and prayed inside a 
nearby church as the storm roared outside.

   "I didn't hear nothing but my own self praying and God answering my prayer. 
I mean, I can get another house, another furniture. But literally saving my 
life -- I'm thankful," she said.

   Following Biden's declaration, federal funding will be available 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.

   Based on early data, the tornado received a preliminary EF-4 rating, the 
National Weather Service office in Jackson said in a tweet. An EF-4 tornado has 
top wind gusts between 166 mph and 200 mph (265 kph and 320 kph).

   In Rolling Fork, the tornado reduced homes to piles of rubble and flipped 
cars on their sides. Other parts of the Deep South were digging out from damage 
caused by other suspected twisters.

   The Federal Emergency Management Agency said 25 people were confirmed killed 
in Mississippi, 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.

   The tornado that slammed into Rolling Fork tore across Mississippi for about 
59 miles (95 kilometers) over a period that lasted more than one hour, the 
National Weather Service said in a preliminary report Sunday. The tornado was 
an estimated three-quarters of a mile wide at some points, according to the 
preliminary estimate.

   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.

   In Georgia, Rachel McMahon awoke Sunday to news from her father that the 
Troup County motel he'd been staying in was destroyed. She said her dad, who is 
disabled, took shelter in the bathtub when the tornado hit.

   He was badly shaken up, but not injured. She had to walk the last half-mile 
to his motel because of downed trees.

   "SO thankful my dad is ok," she posted on Facebook, along with photos and 
videos of the damage: houses with gaping holes in roofs, massive tree trunks 
snapped in half and powerlines dangling every which way.

 
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