WASHINGTON (AP) — President Biden on Friday will visit a Mississippi city devastated by a deadly tornado, even as heavier storms threaten to sweep across the Midwest and South.
Last week’s hurricane destroyed about 300 homes and businesses in Rolling Fork and the nearby town of Silver City, leaving behind piles of debris laden with lumber, brick and twisted metal. Hundreds of additional structures were badly damaged. The Mississippi death toll stood at 21 based on deaths confirmed by coroners. One person also died in Alabama.
Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will assess the damage, meet with storm-affected homeowners and first responders, and receive operational briefing from federal and state officials. They are expected to be joined by Gov. Tate Reeves, Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Rep. Bennie Thompson, along with local leaders.
In a statement after the tornado, Biden vowed the federal government would “do whatever it takes to help.”
“We’ll be there as long as it takes,” he said. “We will work together to provide you with the support you need in your recovery.”
Presidents regularly visit parts of the US that have been devastated by natural disasters or have suffered major casualties from shootings or otherwise, although Biden has been criticized for not yet making a trip to the site of a toxic chemical plague in a small Ohio town. He must also decide whether to visit Nashville after three children and three adults are shot at Covenant School.
Last week’s storm makes life even more difficult in an already economically troubled area. Mississippi is one of the poorest states, and the majority-black delta has long been one of the poorest parts of the state — a place where many people live paycheck to paycheck, often in jobs related to agriculture.
Two of the counties hit by the tornado, Sharkey and Humphreys, are among the most sparsely populated in the state, with just a few thousand residents in communities scattered across vast expanses of cotton, corn and soybean fields. Sharkey’s poverty rate is 35% and Humphrey’s is 33%, compared to about 19% for Mississippi as a whole and less than 12% for the United States as a whole.
Biden approved a disaster declaration for the state that frees up federal funds for temporary housing, home repairs and loans to cover uninsured property losses. However, there is concern that inflation and economic woes could mitigate the impact of government support.
Biden has spoken to Reeves, Senator Roger Wicker, Hyde-Smith and Thompson in separate phone calls.
An unusual weather pattern has set in and forecasters fear Friday will be one of the worst days with much more to come. The National Weather Service said 16.8 million people live in the highest-risk zone and more than 66 million people overall should be on alert as of Friday.
The US will experience more of these massive storms as the world warms, according to a new study. The storms are likely to strike more frequently in more populous southern states like Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.
The study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society forecasts a 6.6% increase in tornado- and hail-producing supercell storms nationwide and a 25.8% increase in the region and time when the strongest storms will strike, under a scenario of one moderate future warming by the end of the century.
However, in certain areas in the south, the increase is much higher. These include Rolling Fork, where study authors predict an increase of one supercell per year through 2100.
Goldberg reported on Jackson, miss.
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