In the wake of the powerful storms that killed at least two dozen people in the Mississippi Delta, aid groups are on the ground assisting those in need.
Here are ways you can help the relief effort, and also ways you can get assistance:
Team Rubicon: Team Rubicon is on the ground in the devastated town of Rolling Fork performing chainsaw operations to clear roads for residents and first responders. The group is also set up to help survivors clear trees, tarp roofs and muck out debris inside homes. Devon Miller of Team Rubicon told CNN the group is looking for new volunteers. Although the team is led by military veterans, first responders and civilians can also sign up to volunteer.
The Salvation Army: The Salvation Army (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi Division) has deployed their canteens to Rolling Fork, Amory, Silver City, and Winona, Mississippi. These mobile units distribute ready-to-eat meals and water to people in need. William Trueblood, Emergency Disaster Services Director for The Salvation Army ALM Division, expects to distribute between 16,000 and 20,000 meals daily. Donations and volunteer support will be vital. Volunteers not already trained with the organization can be paired with certified workers to join the deployed canteen crews.
The Red Cross: Red Cross of Alabama and Mississippi have set up a shelter in Humphreys County at the Greenville Multipurpose Center for those who have been displaced. The group is also serving meals.
The Centers for Disaster Philanthropy: The Center for Disaster Philanthropy is focusing on long-term recovery needs such as rebuilding homes and mental health services.
NMRLS: North Mississippi Rural Legal Services (NMRLS) helping residents of north Mississippi with legal issues related to property loss. If you are in need of their services, call their hotline at 1-800-498-1804 Monday through Thursday between 9:30 am to 3:30 pm and press Option # 3 to get help.
2:20 p.m. ET, March 25, 2023
First responders still are in "life-saving, life-sustaining mode” after deadly storms, FEMA head says
From CNN’s Nikki Carvajal
First responders “still are in a life-saving, life-sustaining mode” after deadly storms devastated parts of Mississippi and Alabama overnight, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said Saturday.
A FEMA team is on the way to collaborate with state agencies and provide for any immediate needs with federal resources, Criswell told CNN’s Fredericka Whitfield. She said FEMA will also start planning for long-term recovery efforts.
Criswell said she spoke with President Joe Biden earlier Saturday and gave him an update on the situation. She said she’ll be traveling to the area Sunday so she can get a firsthand look. FEMA is working with local officials to figure out “what the state needs right and where they have resource gaps,” she added.
“We'll be able to help support some of those needs, and bring in those resources,” she said. “We're partnering really close with the state, and our partners at the American Red Cross are standing up shelters because we know so many people are obviously displaced from their homes, and this will give them that immediate shelter, (give them) that safe place to stay.”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has already declared a disaster emergency, and Criswell said the administration will work to expedite the process of declaring a major disaster at the federal level, freeing up more resources.
2:28 p.m. ET, March 25, 2023
Biden says he's praying for tornado victims and keeping in touch with local officials
From CNN’s Nikki Carvajal
President Joe Biden spoke with state and local leaders after deadly storms swept across the South overnight and said he is “praying for those who have lost loved ones" and "for those whose loved ones are missing.”
In a statement, the president wrote that he had reached out to Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, that he had spoken with Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, and that he had touched base with Rep. Bennie Thompson about the situation.
Biden expressed condolences and offered “full federal support as communities recover from the effects of this storm.”
“I also spoke to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, who has already deployed emergency response personnel and resources to support search-and-rescue teams, assess the damage, and focus our federal support where it is needed most quickly,” Biden wrote.
1:18 p.m. ET, March 25, 2023
Mississippi governor declares state of emergency in wake of deadly storms
"I'm devastated by the destruction and loss of life that these storms have caused," Reeves said. "The state of Mississippi will continue doing everything we can to marshal every resource available to support our fellow Mississippians who are in need. The state will be there to help them rebuild."
"We're not going anywhere and we're in it for the long haul. Please join me in praying for the family and friends of those who lost loved ones in this trying time," Reeves continued.
1:16 p.m. ET, March 25, 2023
Mississippi governor and FEMA officials head to tornado-ravaged county
From CNN's Melissa Alonso
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and state emergency officials are heading to hard-hit Sharkey County, on the west side of the state near the border with Arkansas and Louisiana.
Several state agencies are also "responding to the devastating tornadoes that swept through the state overnight," according to a press release from Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). The agency said "life safety is the number one priority and damage assessments will begin soon."
"Just completed command briefing with our disaster response team," Reeves tweeted Saturday morning. "Devastating damage—as everyone knows. This is a tragedy. I am on my way to Sharkey County to be with the people first hit," he said.
The 23 storm fatalities reported so far in the state are in Sharkey, Humphreys, Carroll, and Monroe counties. There are still "dozens" injured and at least four people missing, according to state emergency officials.
"Life safety is the number one priority and damage assessments will begin soon," MEMA said, adding that several state agencies are responding across Mississippi.
Transportation department damaged: While there are no reports of damaged roadways in the Sharkey County area, a campus for the Mississippi Department of Transportation has been significantly damaged, MEMA said.
"Some MDOT employees have damaged and/or lost homes in the Rolling Fork area," MEMA said. Despite that, "some of those with damaged homes reported overnight to keep the area roads clear and safe."
According to the statement, big trucks are being detoured around Rolling Fork due to low or damaged power lines. The power company is working to make repairs.
"Humphreys County is using its multipurpose building for shelter. The American Red Cross will set up a shelter at the Greenville Multipurpose Center. The Red Cross is also providing food, offering one thousand meals for breakfast, one thousand meals for lunch, and one thousand meals for dinner," MEMA said.
Federal resources: A FEMA team is also headed to the county, according to MEMA.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorksaid as his department will “provide support to the impacted communities” via the FEMA team.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the communities in Mississippi that have been struck by the devastating tornadoes,” Mayorkas said in a tweet, adding he has been in touch with Gov. Reeves and lawmakers from the state.
CNN's Priscilla Alvarez, Nick Valencia and Jessica Jordan contributed reporting.
1:10 p.m. ET, March 25, 2023
Tornadoes in the Southeast are getting worse — and they’re often the deadliest
And while "Tornado Alley" states in the Great Plains still lead in the total number of tornadoes, more are appearing in the Southeast, in eastern Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
Tornadoes shifting further east have been taking a devastating toll.
Southeast tornadoes are harder to spot: Unlike the Plains, where a tornado can be seen coming from miles away, the Southeast has more rugged terrain and more trees, making it more difficult to spot a tornado. Many tornadoes occurring in the area are “rain-wrapped,” so they are less visible to the naked eye, CNN meteorologists said.
Tornadoes in the South tend to stay on the ground longer and move faster. Many storms across the Southern states are pushed by a stronger jet stream, which results in faster-moving storms.
And many of the storms occur overnight, when most people are sleeping and unaware a tornado is approaching.
Parts of the Southeast are more populated: Tornadoes in the Southeast present different vulnerabilities, Victor Gensini, a professor of meteorology at Northern Illinois University, told CNN.
“As you move east from Kansas to Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, the population density increases rapidly, and we also have an issue in the Southeast of more mobile homes,” he said. “If you get hit in a mobile home from a tornado, you’re much more likely to be killed. You just have a really unique exposure and vulnerability problem.”
Even though there are fewer tornadoes in the Southeast than in the Central Plains, there have been more deaths in the Mid-South/Southeast region, because they are occurring in more populated areas.