US tornadoes: From clinging to the rug to hiding in the freezer as the roof topples over – the most unlikely survival stories after the smashed Mississippi city | US News

As dawn breaks in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, the eerie silence is cut by birds chirping in the blue sky overhead.

Occasionally, a car with its front window rolled down passes by When People Take Phone Photos and Videos of Destruction on Movie Scene Scale.

A lone figure is drawing a path Stacks of wood and corrugated ironwhich bears little resemblance to the previous stand here.

It was the first time Erwin Macon, a janitor at the local elementary school, had returned to the place he called home during the day to see what was left.

The footprints of his mobile home are still there. As he said, everything else disappeared.

“Lots of lives have been lost. Coming here and seeing this, it’s hard to deal with,” he said, looking into the distance.

“I’m lucky to be alive.”

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Momentary tornado hits Mississippi school

How man clings to the rug to ensure unlikely survival

Just before 8 p.m. Friday night, Macon received a text message from authorities urging people to shelter in place.

But it was too late. Within minutes, the tornado and its nearly 200 mph whirlwind hit him and nearly 2,000 other people who lived in Rolling Fork, Mississippi.

“I didn’t even hear the sirens go off,” he said.

“So when it comes, I can’t tell you which direction the storm is coming from.

“First it’s calm and quiet and the next thing you know, you start hearing all the noise and I feel like it’s coming towards me.

“The only thing I could do was take the mattress off the bed, throw it on me and lay on the floor.

“The storm blew the mattress off and the only thing covering me was the rug.

“It wraps around me in a way, no debris falls on me, it keeps the rain out.

“I’m just hugging so tight so I don’t get sucked out. That’s God because I shouldn’t be here.”

Photos show how deadly storm turned buildings into ruins

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‘It’s really bad’: Residents hit by tornado

“Blood running down my face”

Rolling Fork is a devoutly religious community — and Lauretta Reed is thanking God after her miraculous escape from the same trailer park.

She had just been released from the hospital with a deep gash on her forehead that was held together with stitches, and a finger that, she said, was half hanging.

“Things happened so quickly, I didn’t know what hit me,” she said.

“I just heard a roar, like a big train coming towards me. I don’t know how long it lasted, but when I came out, there was blood running down my face.

“It’s still lightning and people are screaming and crying for help and I can’t help them. It hurts.”

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Enviva Pellets is a sustainable wood pellet manufacturer located on a damaged site in Amory, Mississippi.Photo: Associated Press
In Amory, Mississippi, a resident was investigating damage to her car.Photo: Associated Press
A homeowner surveys damage in Amory, Mississippi.Photo: Associated Press
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Tornado damage in Amory, Mississippi.Image: Associated Press

Seeing the scale of the devastation, it’s hard to believe that more lives haven’t been lost here, even as search and rescue efforts continue.

Everything in the path of the tornado was smashed.

Almost everyone here has a story to tell.

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Sheriff heartbroken after relative dies in US tornado

Hide in the refrigerator when the building is destroyed

At Chuck’s Dairy Bar, a diner on the town’s main thoroughfare, perhaps the most miraculous survival story ever happened, as employees hid in refrigerators as a tornado passed by.

Owner Tracy Harden said: “The lights flickered and someone said ‘cool’. Nine of us rushed in, really fast.

“Before my husband closed the door, he said, ‘I can see the sky’. That meant our roof was gone.

“I can’t say how long we were there, but we felt it move. We were pushed around.

“And then all of a sudden it stopped”.

A pickup truck sits on top of a restaurant cooler at Chuck's Dairy Cafe in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, Saturday, March 25, 2023. Tornadoes that tore through the state on Friday night killed several people, emergency officials in Mississippi said, as severe weather produced golf ball-sized hail that tore through several southern states, destroying buildings and knocking out power.  (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
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A truck sits on top of a refrigerator at Chuck’s Dairy Bar.Photo: Associated Press
Tracy and Tim Hardin, owners of Chuck's Dairy Bar, investigate the tornado's damage to their business at Rolling Fork.Photo: Associated Press
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Chuck’s Dairy Bar owners Tracy and Tim Hardin are investigating the damage to their business.Photo: Associated Press

Tornadoes come and go quickly.

But the scars in the minds, businesses and families of Rolling Fork residents are taking longer to heal.

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