Austin
1:11 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

Central Texans Head to Mississippi To Help With Tornado Relief

Five Central Texas residents left Austin for Jackson, Mississippi this morning to help provide food, first aid and mental health services to people whose communities were devastated by storms that spawned tornadoes. At least 32 people in north and central Mississippi were killed, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).

"They're going to be driving around in what we call the emergency response vehicle all over the Mississippi area, wherever the devastated areas were," American Red Cross of Central Texas spokesperson Amir Roohi told KUT News. He says they'll be passing out warm sandwiches and administering basic first aid.

One of the five is a Red Cross employee, and the other four are Red Cross volunteers who have been trained in CPR, first aid, and driving an emergency response vehicle, Roohi said. One of the volunteers is a mental health expert who can speak to people who have been traumatized by the storms.

More than half of Mississippi has reported damage and widespread power outages the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.

"This is probably an outbreak of historic significance for us,"Jeff Rent, a MEMA spokesman, said.

Storm chaser Andy Gabrielson shot this close up video of one of the tornadoes in Philadelphia, MS.

The ABC affiliate in Jackson, MS - WAPT - traveled to Smithville in Monroe County, where most of the deaths in Mississippi occurred. The town has set up a temporary morgue. Watch the WAPT report here.

The death toll across the south has topped 200, according to NPR, making it the deadliest tornado outbreak in almost 40 years.

In Alabama, where as many as a million people were without power, Gov. Robert Bentley said 2,000 National Guard troops had been activated and were helping to search devastated areas for people still missing.

Dave Imy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center, said the number of deaths was the most in a tornado outbreak since 1974, when 315 people died. The center said it received 137 tornado reports around the region into Wednesday night.

Here's video of that massive tornado that battered Tuscaloosa.

The Texas Tribune's data expert Matt Stiles pointed out in a Tweet this morning that the US had 185 tornadoes on average through April over the last three years. This year, the April total is 654.

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