The rural Mississippi counties affected by the massive nighttime tornado of March 24 face a long and potentially daunting road to recovery, even as state and federal assistance begins to reach the remote devastated area approximately 90 miles north and northwest of Jackson.

Part of a supercell that formed in Louisiana near the Mississippi border, the wide, wedge-shaped funnel cloud stayed on the ground for more than an hour as it ripped through one small community after another, with winds estimated by the National Weather Service to have reached up to 200 mph.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has confirmed 21 deaths in four counties due to the storm, a figure revised downward from earlier estimates following demobilization of search-and-rescue efforts. A 22nd victim was confirmed in northwest Alabama, where the supercell finally dissipated.

In its 170-mile wake, MEMA says the storm left more than 1,000 severely damaged and flattened homes. Multiple utilities, public roads and public buildings in the storm’s path were also affected. 

“Everything is completely gone,” Humphrey County, Miss., Supervisor James Bankhead said of the small 200-person community of Silver City. “You may have three houses left.”

Bankhead added that Silver City also lost its post office, Baptist church and water treatment plant that served 500 homes.

“The building is gone, and the pipes burst,” he added.

In Rolling Fork, Miss., the largest community in the storm’s path with approximately 2,000 residents, estimates indicate that nearly every commercial building and residence was severely damaged or destroyed completely, according to Bob Wilson, executive director of AGC Mississippi. The town’s hospital was damaged by the tornado, forcing patients to be evacuated to medical facilities elsewhere.

“Rolling Fork only has two water towers and one of those was destroyed, so the only water available is being trucked in,” Wilson told ENR. “Trucks from the Jackson area are on site as well as mobile kitchens to help feed the survivors and first responders.”

Electric power to the region is gradually being restored, with just over 23,000 customers in Mississippi still offline as of midday Monday, according to

President Biden issued a disaster declaration on March 26 for the Mississippi counties of Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe and Sharkey, providing grant and loan opportunities for affected residents and businesses, as well as assistance to local governments and certain private non-profit organizations for emergency work.

AGC Mississippi’s Wilson expects that while there will be many rebuilding opportunities in the devastated region, it is too early to know how the funds will be dedicated, and which property owners will try to rebuild.

“The biggest challenge will be their location and a general lack of resources in the Delta area of Mississippi,” he said. “We are getting calls from contractors wanting to provide equipment, trucks and so forth, but we don’t have a contact yet to tell what they need, when they need it and how it will be staged.”

Other factors may also hamper recovery in the economically challenged area, which has seen a gradual erosion of residents for more than a century. Severe weather events once limited to the spring are occurring earlier and with greater intensity, including a string of deadly tornadoes that struck Alabama in January. Yazoo City, Miss., located just east of the counties affected by the March 24 event, recorded a similarly powerful storm in 2010. The area was also ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Yet despite Silver City being nearly erased by the latest tornado, supervisor Bankhead said, “I hope this community rebuilds.”