The Andersons’ lives were spared and their small brick home left standing. But in a small Delta town of about 2,000 people, hardly anyone escaped the storm without losing someone they knew or loved. As rescue and recovery crews poured into town, James Anderson learned that his fiance’s adult daughter, April Johnson, was one of at least 26 people killed in the storm. She’d been working at the local Family Dollar when the roof collapsed, Anderson said.
His fiance will be left to care for Johnson’s five children.
“The grandmother now has to be the mother all over again,” he said.
Early Sunday, President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in Mississippi and ordered federal aid to supplement recovery efforts, the White House said in a statement.
With more storms forecast for Sunday afternoon, residents and cleanup crews hurried to clear downed trees, patch broken windows with black garbage bags and cover damaged roofs with blue tarps. A few blocks from the Andersons’ home, mountains of debris — remnants of destroyed lives and businesses — began to line Highway 61, the famous Blues Highway that runs from New Orleans to Minnesota.
Displaced residents rested at a Red Cross shelter set up in a National Guard Armory. Mae and Will Smith, both 71, spent the past two nights at the shelter, after a tree crashed onto their home. As the storm bore down, Smith made her granddaughter sleep in a room on the side of the house with fewer trees.
“Glad, I did,” Smith said. “The bed is full of glass.”