By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Mississippi’s two U.S. Senators said on Friday they are continuing to monitor the region’s recovery from the April 28 tornado that severely damaged Tupelo and parts of Lee and Itawamba counties.
Both Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker briefly visited Joyner Elementary, which was damaged by the twister, as was much of the surrounding neighborhood.
“This is a fact-finding visit to see how things are going and make sure we are in it for the long haul,” said Wicker, who also lives in Tupelo.
During the visit, School Board and City officials greeted the federal lawmakers and thanked them for their efforts in having the region quickly declared a federal disaster area. The two Senators toured the area on April 30, along with U.S. Reps. Alan Nunnelee and Gregg Harper. President Barack Obama signed the order that night, two days after the tornado struck.
“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Cochran said, calling the recovery, “a huge challenge.”
“… People have shown patience. We’ll continue to monitor needs and respond in every possible way in conjunction with the state and local government.”
Wicker said he was “impressed” with the way the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency have worked together. Unfortunately, he said, the two agencies have had “so much practice,” due to past natural disasters hitting the state.
“Our role is to make sure we are working with the local governments, we know what the needs are, and FEMA is doing all it can,” he said.
Their visit also came as Cochran faces a June 24 runoff with State Senator Chris McDaniel to retain his seat. The winner of that runoff will advance to the November general election against Travis Childers, who won the Democratic nomination.
They did not tour the school, but met briefly with local officials before visiting a rural medical clinic in Mantachie.