EDITORIAL: Assistance needed

By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi’s congressional delegation – the two senators and four representatives – issued a joint, bipartisan statement Monday urging the federal government, through a declaration by President Obama, to make tornado-and-flood-damaged counties and residents in Northeast Mississippi eligible for full disaster assistance.
Storms and flood waters that claimed six lives the weekend of May 1-2 caused widespread residential and commercial structural damage in Alcorn, Benton, Lafayette, Prentiss, Tippah and Tishomingo counties. The storms, some striking in the middle of the night, wrecked or caused major damage to more than 250 homes and less severe damage to almost 500 other dwellings.
U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, and U.S. Reps. Bennie Thompson, Gene Taylor, Travis Childers and Gregg Harper sent President Obama a letter endorsing the disaster declaration application submitted by Gov. Haley Barbour to the White House late last week.
“The latest estimates show that 6 Mississippi lives have been lost and nearly 250 residences were destroyed or have major damage and 482 homes received minor damage. Much of this destruction has occurred in parts of our state that have been particularly affected by our nation’s current economic situation. Many of these counties have poverty levels that are more than double the national average,” the delegation’s letter said.
“We stand ready to face this new challenge by supporting the local communities, the state, and your administration as we work together to rebuild and renew areas destroyed by this major storm,” the delegation told the president.
President Obama earlier approved a similar request from Barbour for federal assistance in the central and north central counties and communities where 10 people were killed by a massive tornado in late April – and hundreds of homes and businesses were turned to rubble.
A presidential disaster declaration would trigger release of federal disaster assistance and resources.
Much of the tornado damage from the May 1-2 storms happened in rural areas, and flooding caused widespread damage in Corinth and Alcorn County. Creeks and small rivers overflowed across the region, and some remain above flood stage.
In addition, hundreds of streets and roads were damaged by flood waters rushing over them, and many repairs made so far are temporary fixes.
Mississippi has at least a full share so far this year in damage and loss of life from natural disasters, and the extent of harm anticipated from the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has not been calculated as preventive measures continue.
Our region needs federal assistance, and we hope the delegation’s letter speeds the president’s action.