The state of Mississippi is bracing for more storms after a weekend which killed 28 people and left thousands of properties destroyed or badly damaged.
US president Joe Biden declared a major disaster for the state which opened the way for federal funding to be pumped into the state’s recovery efforts.
Homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Deanne Criswell travelled to the state and began discussions with federal, state, and local officials, as to how best to co-ordinate federal support.
The disaster declaration has enabled federal assistance to be delivered to disaster survivors in Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe, and Sharkey counties. This assistance is set to include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, crisis counselling, low-interest loans and other programs to help recovery efforts.
“It is inspiring to see people, not just the people in Mississippi, but the people of this country, assisting those in such dire need,” said Mayorkas. “In disasters like this, there are no strangers: everyone comes together, everyone is a neighbour, everyone is family. They cannot do it alone, and the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA will be here as long as it takes. The entire federal family is here to support these communities.”
Mississippi governor Tate Reeves warned the state was braced for more bad weather and the risks they will bring.
“What we’ve seen, much like the storm that occurred Friday night, is in the 24-36 hours that are leading up to this afternoon, it appears that the risks seem to be getting worse and worse, not better,” he told a press conference. “And when you stand here and see this, what feels like a beautiful weather day in Mississippi, please be aware and please know: if you are south of I-55 in Mississippi today there are significant risks. We are prepared.”
Reeves said it had been “heart-breaking” to see the loss and devastation caused by the tornadoes.
“Mississippians have done what Mississippians do,” he said. “In times of tragedy, in times of crisis, they stand up and they show up, and they’re here to help themselves, help their neighbours.”
“FEMA is here. We remain committed to the people of Mississippi,” Criswell added. “We will be here for you now, we will be with you next week, we will be here long after these cameras are gone to make sure we are assisting you with all your recovery needs.”
She added: “We know that this is going to be a long-term recovery event, and we can see just where we are standing here, that one of the major issues we are going to face is housing, and how do we help the individuals that have been impacted by this horrific event?”
Federal authorities are concerned at the scale of this year’s tornado season which has still to reach it peak.
There were a preliminary total of 168 tornadoes across the US in January, which makes the month the second highest number on record. Alabama alone has seen 49 tornadoes between January and February.
However, traditionally tornadoes and extreme weather do not peak in the southern US until April, May and June leaving authorities concerned that there is potentially for more damaging events to come.