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Sat, Apr 15, 2023

CAF Aircraft Take Part in Tornado Relief Efforts

In Like a Lion …

Between 24 and 27 March 2023, an outbreak of 31 confirmed tornadoes and the severe convective weather associated therewith raged across portions of the lower Mississippi Valley. The system was born at the confluence of a slow, eastward-moving trough of low pressure air and an unstable maritime tropical air-mass originating in the Gulf of Mexico.

The event was punctuated by a violent, 24 March EF4 tornado that tore through the western Mississippi towns of Rolling Fork, Midnight, and Silver City, causing catastrophic damage and numerous fatalities. Two subsequent EF3 tornadoes deriving of the same supercell struck the north-central Mississippi towns of Winona and Amory.

Severe weather and tornadic activity continued into the early morning hours of 25 March as a squall line of severe storms moved eastward across Tennessee and Alabama, spawning an EF2 tornado that claimed one life in Hartselle, Alabama. The slow-moving storm system stalled over the period spanning 26 and 27 March, producing still more severe weather and tornadoes across portions of Alabama and Georgia.

Among the municipalities hardest-hit by the storm was Rolling Fork, Mississippi, which lay in the path of the 24 March EF4 tornado and suffered extensive damage to homes and infrastructure.

In the hours following the devastation, Steve Fryman of the Commemorative Air Force’s (CAF) Indiana Wing telephoned a fellow CAF member in Mississippi inquiring after what the townspeople of Rolling Fork required in the way of disaster relief.

Springing to action, CAF Mississippi Wing member Brandon Stevens compiled a list of needed materials and devised a plan by which CAF aircraft participating in the Airpower History Tour—then on a stop in Pensacola, Florida—would take part in a relief mission on behalf of the people of Rolling Fork.

On 29 March, a composite squadron comprising CAF airplanes from the Airpower History Tour and the Indiana Wing’s B-24 Diamond Lil and SNB BOB—a WWII era, U.S. Navy/Marine variant of Beechcraft’s civilian Model 18 Twin Beech—delivered medicine, water, trash bags, baby wipes, and other needed supplies to Jackson, Mississippi’s Jackson–Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (JAN).

Glenn Olsen, a member of the CAF’s B-29/B-24 Squadron, was instrumental in putting the plan together. In just four hours, the group of CAF members raised $1,300, which was used to purchase the nearly two-thousand pounds of disaster relief supplies that were delivered to JAN.

The combined efforts of the Mississippi Wing, Indiana Wing, and the B-29/B-24 Squadron were deeply and sincerely appreciated by the people of Rolling Forks, who continue to recover from the cataclysm.



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