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Tornadoes broke out on Saturday, January 21, in Mississippi, before spreading to Georgia, Alabama, and much of the southeastern United States. In total, 27 tornadoes have been confirmed. Southern and central Georgia suffered the brunt of the outbreak, with 12 tornadoes throughout the state. 21 casualties were reported as of Thursday, January 27.

Ruined house Hattiesburg, Mississippi
January 21, 2017, a home is destroyed by a severe tornado in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

The tornado outbreak has devastated local communities, damaging houses, shutting off power for thousands of residents, and causing multiple casualties. As of January 23, 17,000 people are without power in Georgia, thousands of people are seeking medical care for injuries, and 16 counties are in a state of emergency, declared by Governor Nathan Deal. Albany, Georgia has seen thousands of homes, an elementary school, an airport and local Marine base damaged. The debris has congested roads, forcing fire crews to walk to disaster sites. Chris Cohilas, chairman of Dougherty County Commission described the scene as “…. It looks like a nuclear bomb went off.” The tornado that hit Hattiesburg, Mississippi was categorized as an EF3 tornado, with wind speeds reaching 145 mph, traveling over 24 miles and having a length of over 31 miles. Over 1,100 homes have been damaged in Mississippi, while damages in Hattiesburg have amounted to over $200 million in initial evaluations, 50 injured people, and William Carey University sending home students as a result of damaged dorms.

Other southeastern states have also felt a substantial impact from the tornadoes. Scottsville, Texas has lost power and suffered 2 deaths. Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama have also experienced structural damage, downed trees, injured residents, and loss of power.

The response effort began immediately after the tornadoes abated, and President Trump spoke with Georgia’s Governor Deal to promise aid. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) has been in contact with FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, and state and local agencies in order to facilitate the recovery effort. Local organizations such as Christian Services have already started working on the ground, providing meals to over 1,600 people.

Sources and Further Reading:

  1. Storms continue to wreak havoc on Southeast U.S. as tornadoes kill at least 14 in Georgia – LA Times
  2. At Least 34 Tornadoes in January 21-23, 2017, Outbreak, Including Hattiesburg, Mississippi, EF3 Tornado – Weather Channel
  3. Southern Tornado Victims Identified; Search Still on For Missing Toddler – Weather Channel
  4. Albany City, Georgia – Census
  5. Hattiesburg City, Mississippi – Census
  6. At Least 34 Tornadoes in January 21-23, 2017, Outbreak, Including Hattiesburg, Mississippi, EF3 Tornado – Weather Channel
  7. Mississippi tornado ‘a great tragedy,’ Governor says – WAPT
  8. 19 Dead Over 48 Hours as Tornadoes Wreak Havoc in the South – ABC News
  9. Isakson pledges assistance to tornado-damaged areas in Georgia – WSAV
  10. Christian Services feeds thousands after tornado – wmcactionnews