Piles of debris. Collapsed buildings. Destroyed homes. Dozens of people dead. These are just a few of the consequences of the estimated 50 tornadoes that recently hit the South and Midwest.
But one of the year’s worst tornadoes happened the week before this latest outbreak, and residents are still suffering.
On March 24, a tornado slammed a small town in northern Mississippi, one of the poorest parts of the United States. Rolling Fork, a predominantly Black town of 1,883, was hit hard by an EF4 tornado with estimated peak wind speeds of 170 miles per hour. As a result, 25 people were killed, and 1,600 homes and buildings were damaged.
Unfortunately, thanks to climate change, powerful tornadoes like the one that hit Rolling Fork could become more frequent. Walker Ashley, an atmospheric scientist and disaster geographer at Northern Illinois University, told ABC News that increased moisture in the air, wind shear, and other conditions could produce more storms. Tornado “outbreaks just happen to occur with a lot more of these ingredients coming together,” he said.
Tornado recovery costs serious money. On average, severe storms cost $2.3 billion per event. And with U.S. Census Bureau data showing that because only half of Rolling Fork residents are employed, and 21% live below the poverty line, rebuilding will be more difficult.
But we can help Black folk in Rolling Fork and beyond. It might seem small, but every little bit can go a long way for climate-related disaster relief. Here are five ways to make a difference:
1. Contact the Red Cross:
The charity organization has been providing food and shelter to survivors in need, and they’re always looking for volunteers.
Know that the Red Cross is not taking food or clothing donations at this time. Instead, the volunteer organization is urging folks to donate to help people affected across the South and Midwest. You can also text TORNADO to 90999 to donate $10.
2. Contact the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency
This agency has a list of places taking donations and encourages people to send money to The Salvation Army.
3. Connect With the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service
The organization promotes service in communities across the state and has updates on its Facebook page about where to donate items or help out.
4. Connect With Organizations or Charities in Your Town
Reach out to local nonprofits and churches, or even ask around to see if anyone’s taking donations — like clothing and toiletries.
5. Share Information About Where to Find Support
Let folks know about where people affected by tornadoes can get support. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration disaster distress hotline provides free counseling to tornado survivors. Call 1-800-985-5990 to learn more.
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