Rev. Roy Oatis, pastor of James Hill Church, wears a surgical mask to protect himself from coronavirus, looking at piles of debris in front of what used to be his church. 

“I was at home hosting a live-stream of our Easter service before I took shelter,” Otis said. “I didn’t realize how bad it was going to be.”

South Mississippi was devastated by 13 radar-confirmed tornadoes that caused 12 reported fatalities on Easter Sunday. About six counties reported fatalities and 30 more reported storm related damage. As of Tuesday, more than 500 homes were affected and thousands remained without power.

Roger Dyess, a disabled Carson resident, received severe damage to his home. His roof had been torn away, vehicles overturned and several trees surrounding his home fell. But with the help of family and volunteers, Dyess was able to begin repairs on his home. “This is all material things that can be replaced,” Dyess said. “I am just grateful to have people come out here and help me get things slightly back in order.”

Mississippi last saw a surge of tornados in 2011 which killed 23 people. Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency due to the severity of the storms and tornadoes. 

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Eric J. Shelton is a 2018 corps member in Report for America, and joined the team as our first photojournalist. A native of Columbia, Miss., Eric earned his bachelor’s in photojournalism from the University of Southern Mississippi. He was a multimedia journalist for Abilene Reporter-News, chief photographer for the Hattiesburg American and photo editor for the Killeen Daily Herald before joining our team June 2018.