The risks of more severe weather in tornado-ravaged Mississippi “seem to be getting worse and worse”, the governor has warned.
A state of emergency has been declared following a destructive tornado on Friday that killed at least 26 people, but locals have been warned that more dangerous conditions could be on the way.
Although he was speaking at a sunny outdoor news conference on Sunday, Mississippi governor Tate Reeves said the seemingly pleasant conditions could quickly take a turn.
“What we’ve seen […] is in the 24 to 36 hours leading up to this afternoon, it appears that the risks seem to be getting worse and worse, not better,” he warned.
Mr Reeves said there were “significant risks” to anyone living south of Interstate 55, the south’s longest highway.
Officials are prepared for “potential severe weather” and are “monitoring that very closely”, he added.
It will make grim reading for those who could be in the path of further storms, with Friday’s having left a trail of devastation through one of the poorest regions of the US.
Recovery will be ‘a long-term event’
The state of emergency declared by President Joe Biden means federal funding will be made available to the areas hardest hit – Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe and Sharkey counties.
Recovery teams are continuing the daunting task of sifting through the debris of flattened buildings, with dozens injured and hundreds more people left homeless.
Deanne Criswell, chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, warned: “We know that this is going to be a long-term recovery event.”
Photos show how deadly storm reduced buildings to rubble
‘Blessed to be alive’
There are fears that the number of people killed could climb as more rubble is cleared away.
Twenty-five of those confirmed dead so far were in Mississippi, the other in neighbouring Alabama.
Erwin Macon, who works at a school in the town of Rolling Fork, from where Mr Reeves spoke, told Sky News he was “blessed to be alive” after his mobile home was destroyed.
Another local, Tracy Harden, said workers at her Chuck’s Dairy Bar had to hide in a fridge as the tornado arrived and ripped the building’s roof off.
According to data from the National Weather Service, the tornado reached gusts of between 166mph and 200mph.
The most unlikely tales of survival from pulverised town
Tigers escape damaged enclosure
Elsewhere, a tornado touched down in Troup County, Georgia, early on Sunday.
Five people suffered minor injuries, up to 100 buildings were damaged, and many roads were blocked by debris.
Damage at a safari park in the Pine Mountain area led to two tigers escaping from their enclosures, though they have since been found and safely returned.