Locals 619 and 669 serve food to displaced residents in the wake of a devastating tornado

Locals 619 and 669 serve food to displaced residents in the wake of a devastating tornado

On March 24, 2023, a devastating EF4 tornado ripped through the town of Rolling Fork, Miss., destroying everything in its path. 

The Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale is used to assign a tornado a rating based on estimated wind speeds and related damage. The scale only goes to EF5.

The tornado that passed through Rolling Fork reached wind speeds of up to 177 mph and was estimated to be three-quarters of a mile wide, traveling 60 miles and lasting more than an hour. 

The town was left with debris and rubble from houses and businesses. Cars were damaged and lives were taken. Even the town’s large water tower was knocked down, and farming lands and farming equipment were destroyed. 

Rolling Fork is a Mississippi Delta community, so farming is its livelihood. Many Rolling Fork residents were left homeless and without a way to get food and water. 

Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 619, Vicksburg, Miss., Union Hall is 30 miles south of where the tornado hit. Members of Local 619 and area members of Sprinkler Fitters Local 669 came up with a plan to help those affected by the tornado. 

Local 619 members pulled out their large grill, cleaned it, and bought supplies to prepare pulled pork meals to feed the Rolling Fork community. 

They drove to the heart of the devastation and served pulled pork, chips and a sweet treat to more than 500 displaced residents. 

Rolling Fork community grateful for UA’s help 

Local 619 Business Manager Tommy Newell said the Local bought a smoked hind quarter and as people came around, they served plates of food to the community. 

“These people had lost everything,” he said. “There wasn’t even a store left where they could get a loaf of bread, or meat, or anything to make sandwiches. Most of their cars were destroyed, so they would pull up in their cars battered by loose debris that had just devastated their vehicles.” 

Other Local 619 members involved were Chris Mathis, Business Agent Chris Newell, Organizer Chan Newell and Local 669 Business Agent Richard Beckham. 

“Everything was gone,” Newell said. “There was nothing standing. We wanted to let these folks know that we care about them in their time of need and will reach out a helping hand and help anywhere we can.” 

He added that the community was overwhelmed by the generosity and they were appreciative of what the Local was doing. 

Rolling Fork is working on rebuilding the community, but it’s been a slow process, according to Chris Newell. 

“We plan on going back up there again to do the same thing,” Tommy Newell said. “Right now, we’re just letting all the proper officials help. They have MEMA (Mississippi Emergency Management Agency) and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) there to help these people get in temporary housing and stuff like that.”

Food and water are essential to everyday living and something many of us take for granted. 

People in desperate need of food were fed that day thanks to the thoughtfulness and generosity of Local 619 and Local 669 members.