GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A broadcast meteorologist said he’s still processing what happened following the outbreak of tornadoes last week that killed at least 21 people in Mississippi.
Jake Dalton, a meteorologist at WOOD TV8’s sister station WJTV in Jackson, Mississippi, ventured to Rolling Fork, where roughly 75% of the town has been wiped out. He said the damage he witnessed is almost inexplicable.
“The statement of ‘pictures don’t do it justice’ is absolutely correct,” Dalton said. “Because you look at the images online and you see the damage and you look at it and you’re like, ‘Wow, that is terrible.’ These homes and businesses are wiped out. But until you’re there on the ground, that’s when it really puts things into perspective.”
Having worked as a meteorologist for several years, Dalton has had plenty of training in covering storms like last week’s, but standing in the ravaged area was a new experience.
“It was emotional, I’ll be honest,” he said. “I had to hold it together for a little bit because you’re looking at the damage and we also got to talk to residents that went through it and got to hear their stories of survival and we had talked to a woman whose neighbor died behind her house… It was tough, it really was. Definitely the worst thing I’ve ever seen damage-wise.”
Dalton knows all too well about incredible damage from Mother Nature. A resident of southeast Louisiana, he remembers seeing the carnage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when he was a kid. He likened Friday’s tornadoes to that historic weather event.
“I remember the damage there and it was up there with Katrina,” Dalton said. “Just homes wiped out, businesses gone.”
Now a meteorologist, Dalton is using his expertise in storm tracking to save lives. He said he and his team talked with residents who said the information put out by WJTV and other news outlets alerted people to seek a safe place.
Even with technological advances, it can still be difficult to fully understand how severe the weather is and to effectively explain the seriousness of the situation to viewers.
“There are times where you’re sitting there and you almost don’t even know what else to say,” he said. “You almost just want to jump through the TV screen and just tell these people, ‘Hey, this is the real deal. This is the one.’”
Dalton and WJTV provided hours of coverage to keep people safe during Friday’s storms. While their coverage no doubt helped keep people safe, the aftermath is still a lot for Dalton to take in.
“We all feel it here on our weather team and at the news station too,” Dalton said. “Even if we didn’t know people personally impacted by this, these are our towns that we cover. We talk about Rolling Fork all the time. We talk about Silver City … these are our communities that we cover every day. So just knowing that it has really hurt our community, it hurts us too.”
There are plenty of organizations continuing to work and help the residents impacted by the storms, but there is still a lot of help needed. WJTV has a full list of ways to assist those in neecd. You can click here to find the best option for you.