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Biden went to Mississippi to offer support to victims of the devastating tornadoes


President Biden visited Rolling Fork, Miss., where more than a dozen people died from a tornado last week. The president said the federal government is committed to help with the recovery.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We're not just here for today. I'm determined that we're going to leave nothing behind. We're going to get it done for you.

SIMON: President's visit took place as another storm system rolled across several states and caused much damage and some deaths. NPR's Deepa Shivaram traveled with the president and joins us now. Deepa, thanks so much for being with us.

DEEPA SHIVARAM, BYLINE: Hey, good morning.

SIMON: We have all seen those devastating images out of Rolling Forks since the tornado hit. I wonder what it was like on the ground.

SHIVARAM: Yeah, one week later, Rolling Fork is still looking really rough. Even in just our drive in yesterday and the president's drive into town, we saw so much of the town just decimated, Scott. A gas station had essentially collapsed. There were entire neighborhoods that have just been flattened. The houses just looked like they had been - you know, they were matchsticks. So much debris strewn all over farmland, there were fences down. We passed so many trees that looked like they had just been split in half by the storm. And the president spoke about some of this in his remarks yesterday.


BIDEN: Three hundred homes and businesses are nothing more than piles of twisted materials mixed up with personal items that mattered so much - teddy bears, family albums.

SHIVARAM: And keep in mind, Rolling Fork is a really small town. There's about 2,000 residents, most of whom are Black in a rural part of the South. And this has been a horrific week for their community. But in the middle of all of that, I have to say, there's been a surge of energy from volunteers and organizations, like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, that have been in town to help distribute cleaning supplies and hot meals. There's a yearslong road ahead for Rolling Fork. But at this moment, they have a lot of partners pitching in to help.

SIMON: Deepa, when the president says the federal government will pay for recovery efforts in the near term, what does that cover?

SHIVARAM: Yeah, the White House says it'll cover things like debris cleanup, shelters and overtime pay for emergency workers for 30 days. And that funding also includes cash grants for people who lost their homes, whether they owned them or rented them, and to help for pay things that insurance might not cover. The government's also taking a large-scale approach in other ways as well. One thing the president mentioned yesterday in his remarks is the town's post office, which was hit by the storm. A lot of people in Rolling Fork get their medications through the mail. But after the storm, that access to medications became an immediate concern. So the National Postal Service is setting up a temporary post office to keep things running. But right now, it's unclear how long the full recovery for Rolling Fork will take.

SIMON: And, of course, another deadly storm struck the center of the country yesterday. What can you tell us about that?

SHIVARAM: Yeah, it's been a lot of back-to-back storms here. There were thunderstorms and tornadoes that swept into the middle of the country last night. We're talking regions from Texas to Illinois, similar scene, homes, shopping centers, businesses just completely shredded by these winds and these storms. At least two people were killed near Little Rock, Ark., from a tornado that struck there. More than 30 people were taken to hospitals. And then, in Northern Illinois, there was a storm that actually tore the roof off of a theater during a heavy metal concert. At least one person died there, and 28 people were injured - so a lot of wreckage that people are going through. First responders are sifting through debris today to look for additional victims who may be trapped. Obviously, a lot of cleanup ahead. And as that happens, the death toll here may rise as well.

SIMON: NPR's Deepa Shivaram, thanks so much.

SHIVARAM: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF TASMAN SONG, "WHEN I FALL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.