STORM RECOVERY UPDATES: State AG says Smithville should expect scam artists

5:30 p.m. – Updates from NEMS Daily Journal writer Carlie Kollath …

WANT TO HELP?
Smithville needs all sizes of bed sheets and pillow cases, according to Mayor Gregg Kennedy on Monday. The tornado-ravaged town also is in need of infant clothes.
Kennedy said the donations can be dropped off for Jimmy Williams at the POD center in Smithville.
Smithville also needs help cleaning up brush from parts of the damaged residential area. Volunteers are needed from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, Kennedy said. Volunteers must sign in at the baseball field at Smithville High School.
Officials at the Highway 25 checkpoint have a special route for people donating or volunteering, but they will be allowed into the town.


FIND SMITHVILLE MAIL?
Mail and financial records from Smithville residents have been showing up miles from the town.
Leaders tell of a checkbook that wound up in Alabama and a police schedule that landed in Tennessee.
Finders should drop off the papers with sensitive information to their local sheriff’s office, state leaders said Monday. The sheriff’s offices already are working to mail the items back to their original owners.
A Facebook page has been set up to get photos and other documents back to their original owners. The finders are posting photos and asking for people to claim the items. The page is called “Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes.”
The facebook page will have the photos posted as of Monday at 5 p.m. As of Friday at 5 p.m, it had 1,771 pictures. More than 84,000 people have “liked” the facebook page.


Atmos Gas turned on gas Monday in part of Smithville.
Brandon Presley, the Northern District Public Service Commissioner, was on site and said the gas is expected to reach residential areas that can use it Tuesday afternoon.
Atmos did two pressure tests Monday morning to make sure the natural gas lines were safe.


Smithville has 40 new power poles up, thanks to employees at Monroe County Electric Power Association.
The poles were put up in the hardest hit part of Smithville. Employees said they’ve been working dawn until dark to get power restored.


5:26 p.m. – Okolona Electric expects to complete line restoration today and then only be left with service drop restoration, according to Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley.

5:04 p.m. – From NEMS Daily Journal reporter Carlie Kollath …

SMITHVILLE – Smithville residents should expect scam artists to try their luck during the rebuilding of the tornado-ravaged town, said state Attorney General Jim Hood.

He warned residents on Monday to beware of people posing as officials, knocking on doors and asking for personal information such as Social Security numbers. Only give out personal information to people with official badges or to people working at the official government booths.

Residents should also be cautious about hiring people to cut down trees or do repair work.

He received one report Monday of possible price gouging for tree removal in Smithville, which he said would be investigated.

Don’t pay for work in advance, Hood warned, and make sure to get a contract in writing before any work is done.

He passed out fliers with a sample contract.

The fliers are available at the Smithville command center in the parking lot of Piggly Wiggly or at www.agjimhood.com.

Also, residents should take pictures of the workers, their vehicles and their license plate in case evidence is needed later for fraud.

Con artists won’t be tolerated in Smithville, said Mayor Gregg Kennedy.

“I have absolutely no patience whatsoever for anyone trying to take advantage of the victims of Smithville,” Kennedy said. “If we catch anyone taking advantage of the citizens of Smithville, we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. We will show no sympathy.”

4:41 p.m. – From Northern District Public Servic Commissioner Brandon Preslely on Twitter @Brandon_Presley ….

AT&T just notified me of discounts they plan to make available to storm victims for call forwarding, voicemail, new or temp service, etc

To find out about the AT&T discounts for please call AT&T 1-888-757-6500 or call my office at 1-800-356-6428 or 1-800-637-7722.

3:44 p.m. – Cases of Home Repair Fraud follow natural disasters like we’ve recently seen in our state, cautions Attorney General Jim Hood. Last week’s storms swept across much of Mississippi leaving many homes in need of repair, and more damage is expected from flooding in the coming weeks. In response to these events, the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office is sending investigators to affected areas with consumer education materials.

Attorney General Jim Hood reminds residents impacted by these storms to protect themselves from the scammers that every storm brings. “Unfortunately, con artists prey on people who are down on their luck,” said Attorney General Hood. “That’s why it pays to arm yourself with the knowledge of their scams and learn how to protect yourself up front.”

The Attorney General suggests the following tips regarding home repair for residents impacted by these storms to avoid being taken advantage of:

- Always get your contract in writing.

- Get at least two estimates.

- Ask for references and actually talk to those customers.

- Ask to see state or local permits and licenses.

- Don’t give contractors money up front.

- Contact the Mississippi Board of Contractors to verify if the contractor is licensed.

- Get receipts for all repair payments, including those paid in cash.

- If you are writing a check, make it out to the name of the company rather than a worker.

- Don’t give any money up front.

- Buy materials yourself, if possible.

If you are suspicious, do not hire the worker and report your concerns to your local law enforcement agency or our Consumer Protection division at 1-800-281-4418.

2:10 p.m. – From the Associated Press …

Tornado-ravaged Miss. town reaches milestones

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A north Mississippi community ravaged by a powerful tornado last week has reached important milestones as children returned to school Monday and authorities say all the missing residents have been found.

Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman Brian Mobley says everyone missing from Monroe County and Smithville, the hardest hit town there, have been accounted for. He says search-and-rescue operations are over.

Authorities say last week’s storms killed 35 people in Mississippi, 15 in Monroe County alone.

Mobley also says Smithville children returned to school Monday in alternative locations. Mobley calls that another major gain for the town of 900 residents.

Smithville lost homes, churches, government buildings. Much of the town remains covered in debris.

NOAA: Record 226 tornadoes in 24 hours last week

WASHINGTON (AP) — Preliminary government estimates say there were more tornadoes in a single day last week than any other day in history.

Government analysts say there were 312 tornadoes during last week’s outbreak, including a record-setting 226 in one day.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the largest previous number on record in one event occurred from April 3-4, 1974, with 148 tornadoes.

NOAA says 334 people were killed during the 24-hour-period from 8:00 a.m. Wednesday to Thursday.

More people were killed by tornadoes in the two-day period since April 5-6, 1936, when 454 people were killed, mostly in Tupelo, Miss., and Gainesville, Georgia,” according to NOAA. And it was the deadliest single day for tornadoes since the March 18, 1925, tornado outbreak that had 747 fatalities across 7 states.

12:06 p.m. – Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley just sent this out on Twitter …
31 power poles up headed into Smithville. Atmos is testing lines right now. Smithville Phone Co customers that can take service have it now.

11:34 a.m. – Search and rescue in Smithville has been suspended, according to Mississippi Highway Patrol. Everyone has been accounted for, according to email from MPH.

Mississippi Highway Patrol tells NEMS Daily Journal reporter Danza Johnson one of the three missing was found dead Saturday and the other two were out of town. None of the people have been identified at this time.

11:05 a.m. – US Army Corps of Engineers are meeting with the Monroe County Board of Supervisors today.

11 a.m. – Smithville students are back in school today. Seventh through 12th graders are at the Advanced Learning Center in Becker, according to NEMS Daily Journal report Chris Kieffer. Kindergarten through 6th grade Smithville students are attending Hatley School. Chris will have more later today.

NEMS Daily Journal