ROLLING FORK, Miss. (NewsNation) — President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Rolling Fork Friday to survey the widespread damage caused by a devastating tornado that ripped through Mississippi and Alabama, killing 26 people and obliterating buildings in its wake.
The White House said the president will tour the damage and meet with first responders and survivors. They are expected to be joined by Gov. Tate Reeves, Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Rep. Bennie Thompson, along with local leaders.
In a statement after the tornado, Biden pledged that the federal government would “do everything we can to help.”
“We will be there as long as it takes,” he said. “We will work together to deliver the support you need to recover.”
The president is also expected to announce that the federal government will pay for the state of Mississippi’s emergency measures for the next month. That includes removing debris, operating shelters and even paying overtime to first responders.
Biden approved a disaster declaration for the state, which frees up federal funds for temporary housing, home repairs and loans to cover uninsured property losses. But there’s concern that inflation and economic troubles may blunt the impact of federal assistance.
As the cleanup continues, there are real concerns about Rolling Fork’s future with many residents unable to believe they will recover.
Last week’s twister destroyed roughly 300 homes and businesses in Rolling Fork and the nearby town of Silver City, leaving mounds of wreckage full of lumber, bricks and twisted metal. Hundreds of additional structures were severely damaged.
U.S. Census data revealed that 35% of Sharkey County, where the city is located, lives in poverty. State officials said more than 1,600 homes across seven different counties were damaged by this tornado.
“This is a resilient town and I think that we will survive. Will we keep all our population here? That’s a real question,” farmer Paul Hollis said.
Tracy Hardin, whose restaurant was destroyed by the tornado, said, “The sooner we get a structure up, it’s going to make the community feel better about staying. Because people are nervous, you know there’s nothing left.”
Biden is also expected to announce that FEMA will open disaster recovery centers in four counties impacted by this tornado.
People who live here say the faster they can get help, the better.
The first couple’s trip to Rolling Fork comes as a new series of severe storms threatens to rip across the Midwest and the South.
The National Weather Service said 16.8 million people live in the highest risk zone, and more than 66 million people overall should be on alert Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.