8 p.m. – From The Associated Press – President Barack Obama issued a federal disaster declaration Friday to help seven Mississippi counties recover from powerful storms that pounded the South this week, killing 34 people in Mississippi and injuring 163, Gov. Haley Barbour said.
Friday’s declaration covered Clarke, Greene, Hinds, Jasper, Kemper, Lafayette and Monroe counties.
“Although this declaration covers only the seven hardest-hit counties, this is a good start,” Barbour said. “This is the first in what I expect to be a series of aid packages from the federal government to help us recover from the tornados and begin the rebuilding process.”
Other counties may qualify for federal help after damage assessments that will continue throughout the weekend, he said.
4:45 p.m.: An anonymous donor has established a fund of up to $150,000 through CREATE Foundation, Inc. to be administered by Three Rivers Planning and Development District to provide a grant of $1,000 for each household residing in Smithville, Mississippi and identified by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) as having their residence rendered uninhabitable as a result of the tornado which occurred in Smithville on Wednesday, the 27th day of April, 2011.
The purpose of this grant is to help meet the immediate needs of families whose homes were destroyed.
Anyone seeking to make application for these grants should contact Three Rivers Planning and Development District in Pontotoc, Mississippi at 662-489-2415.
Additionally, Three Rivers Planning and Development District will have representatives onsite in Smithville, MS across from the Piggly Wiggly on Monday, May 2 and Tuesday, May 3, 2011 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. to accept applications.
Approval is subject to compliance with all eligibility requirements and guidelines for this grant program. It should be noted that only one grant per household is available and the grant application must be made by the Head of the Household.
3:21 p.m.: Thirteen people have been confirmed dead from Wednesday’s tornado in Smithville.
Below are the identities of 12 victims that have been confirmed by funeral homes. The identities of one victim remains unknown.
Jessica Pace, 18
Allen Scotty Morris, 41
Courtney Easter, 21
Roy “Peanut” Lee Estis, 63
Nelly Estis, 61
Elvin Roy Patterson, age unavailable
Mary Lavern Patterson, age unavailable
Jessie Cox, age unavailable
Karla Jo Jones, 37
Marvis Jean Manley, 70
Lucile Parker, 86
Mildred Elam, age unavailable
2:00 p.m. – Due to last week’s storms, the Natchez Trace Parkway is temporarily closing the Jeff Busby Campground, located at milepost 193.1, in Mississippi.
The campground will reopen once damage assessments have been completed and mitigated.
For additional information and/or updates regarding the Jeff Busby Campground closure, visit www.nps.gov/natr or call (662) 680-4027.
1:59 p.m. – From The Associated Press …
SMITHVILLE — Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour says federal officials have agreed to quickly process his request for a disaster declaration to speed up recovery from powerful storms that pounded the South this week.
Barbour traveled Friday to Smithville, a northeast Mississippi town of about 900 residents, where 14 were killed by a tornado with winds over 200 mph. The National Weather Service classed it as an EF-5, the strongest rating for tornado damage.
Mississippi’s death toll is at least 33 for the storms that struck Tuesday and Wednesday. More than 150 people were injured.
Initial reports from 51 of Mississippi’s 82 counties showed more than 320 homes and 25 businesses damaged. Barbour said has asked President Barack Obama for a federal disaster declaration for the entire state.
12:39 p.m. – Smithville School will resume classes in alternate location …
Students who attend Smithville School in Monroe County will resume classes on Monday, May 2, 2011, just days after their school was destroyed by a tornado. Nearby schools, Hatley School and the Advanced Learning Center a Becker, will share classroom space wity Smithville students.
Smithville students in grades kindergarten through sixth grade will attend class at Hatley and those in grades 7- 12 will be located at Becker. Buses will run their regular routes and transport students to their respective new locations.
By utilizing vacant classrooms, libraries, and meeting rooms, Smithville students will be in rooms with their regular teachers and classmates and not combined with students from other schools. School and state officials are working diligently to allow Smithville students to complete their school year with minimal interruptions.
“We are grateful for the support that the community is providing to students and staff at Smithville School,” said State Superintendent Dr. Tom Burnham. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who experienced loss due to this devastating storm. The Mississippi Department of Education will continue to provide support as needed.”
Parents and students will be notified of the revised state testing schedule next week after classes resume at their new location.
“Our main concern is the well being of our students and helping them to return to a sense of normalcy,” said Monroe County Superintendent Scott Cantrell. “We will work with students and their families as they adjust to this situation.”
– Media at Gov. Barbour’s press conference included – Media in attendance include NBC, CNN, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Fox … and Monroe Journal and NEMS Daily Journal.
Noon – Here are the most recent death tolls in the states hit hardest by the storm system that spawned dozens of tornadoes across the Southeast, killing at least 299 people:
— Alabama: 210 dead
— Mississippi: 33 dead
— Tennessee: 33 dead
— Georgia: 15 dead
— Virginia: 5 dead
— Louisiana: 2 dead
— Kentucky: 1 dead
11:49 a.m. – From The Link Centre …National Weather Service survey teams have confirmed an EF3 tornado moved through Choctaw, Webster and Clay counties during storms early Wednesday morning.
The Link Centre will be a donation site for items for the children affected by the tornado in Smithville, MS. We are collecting new and gently used clothing, books, and toys as well as diapers, food, and drinks for children of all ages.
We will be taking our donations to the Gilmore Foundation of Amory, MS. The Gilmore Foundation is coordinating efforts with the Mississippi State University Early Childhood Institute, churches, non-profit organizations, and concerned residents across our region. They are starting a day care for children as soon as possible and will continue to provide day care while families work with the Red Cross and government agencies to begin the process of getting medical attention and the help they need to recover.
Please bring donations of clothing, books, toys, diapers, snacks, or drinks to the Link Centre, 1800 W. Main Street, Tupelo.
Monetary donations made out the Gilmore Foundation would also be welcomed. Drop your donations at our back entrance on the corner of Douglas and Stephen D. Lee Street
beginning today from 3:00pm-6:00pm, Saturday from 9:00am-6:00pm, Sunday from 12:00pm-6:00pm, and Monday from 9:00am-6:00pm.
If you are interested in volunteering with the day care beginning on Monday, please contact the Gilmore Early Learning Initiative (GELI) at 662-257-KIDS.
“Link Centre exists to connect people, organizations, and opportunities that have the power to change lives,” said Melanie Deas, Executive Director. “We are honored to be able to play a role in making lives a little better for our neighbors in such a terrible time. I am particularly touched that all the youth at Link, from the TPSD School-Aged Mothers program to Girl Scouts and beyond, are able to join in this effort to help other young people.”
The Link Centre is a regional nonprofit organization which partners with other groups for social services and arts programs to serve residents across northeast Mississippi. Current projects include partnering with TupeloPublicSchool District on the School-Aged Mothers program and the Culinary Institute as well as offering affordable rental space to the Girl Scouts Heart of the South regional center, Kindermusik, tutoring, and dance classes for youth.
The Gilmore Foundation is a private not for profit grant-making organization that has been serving Amory, Monroe County and all of Northeast Mississippi for over 90 years.
And this from the Create Foundation ….
Northeast Mississippi Disaster Relief Fund
This is a special project designated to provide disaster relief to those impacted by the recent tornadoes. Donors may designate their contributions by county if they wish. The funds will be used to support efforts by the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and other agencies to provide service to those affected.
People may send donations to:
PO Box 1053
Tupelo, MS 38801
They will need to indicate that the donation is for the Northeast Mississippi Disaster Relief Fund. Donations may also be brought by our office at 213 West Main Street in Tupelo or they can be made online at www.createfoundation.com (select Donate Online from the left column and choose the fund from the drop down menu).
11:23 a.m. – By KRISTI EATON,Associated Press …
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — At least one of the massive tornadoes that killed hundreds across the South was a devastating EF-5 storm, and the National Weather Service expects to determine later Friday that “many more” also were the worst of the worst.
After the first day of assessing storm damage, the weather service said the tornado that hit Smithville, Miss., at 3:44 p.m. EDT on Wednesday was an EF-5 storm. That’s the highest rating given to assess a tornado’s wind speed, and is based in part on damage caused by the storm.
The weather service said the half-mile wide Smithville tornado had peak winds of 205 mph and was on the ground for close to three miles, killing 14 and injuring 40.
It was the first EF-5 tornado to strike Mississippi since 1966, and the first EF-5 tornado in the United States since a May 25, 2008, storm in Parkersburg, Iowa.
Meteorologist Jim LaDue at the weather service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said he expects “many more” of the tornadoes that killed at least 297 people during Wednesday’s brutal outbreak of severe weather will be rated EF-5 later Friday.
The weather service also is sending assessment teams back out to review more damage in several states, including Mississippi and Alabama. The assessments are preliminary, and are based on photos taken during the ground surveys and consultation with experts. They will be confirmed later this year.
The Smithville tornado rated EF-5 destroyed 18 homes, which the weather service said were well built, less than 10 years old and bolted to their foundation.
The plumbing systems and appliances in the worst part of the storm’s damage path were either shredded or missing entirely, as is a 1965 Chevrolet pickup truck that was parked in front of one of the destroyed homes.
11:20 a.m. – Daily Journal photographer Deste Lee reports seeing cell towers being repaired in Smithville.
8:52 a.m. – From the Monroe Journal – Smithville’s High School graduation will be May 19 at 7 p.m. at Itawamba CC’s Davis Event Center
8:49 a.m. – National Weather Service confirms rare EF-5 Tornado in Smithville …
PRELIMINARY RARE EF-5 TORNADO IN MONROE COUNTY MISSISSIPPI…
AFTER A REVIEW OF THE DAMAGE PHOTOS TAKEN DURING THURSDAY/S GROUND
SURVEY AND CONSULTATION WITH NATIONAL EXPERTS…THE NATIONAL
WEATHER SERVICE IN MEMPHIS HAS UPGRADED THE SMITHVILLE TORNADO
RATING TO EF-5 DAMAGE. THIS IS THE HIGHEST RATING FOR TORNADO
DAMAGE AND THE FIRST EF-5 OR F-5 IN MISSISSIPPI SINCE THE
CANDLESTICK PARK TORNADO NEAR JACKSON ON MARCH 3RD 1966.
* COUNTY/COUNTIES: MONROE
* LOCATION/TIME OF EVENT: SMITHVILLE AT 344 PM EDT
* BEGINNING POINT: 34.0517, -88.4236
* ENDING POINT: 34.0731, -88.3814
* RATING: EF-5
* ESTIMATED PEAK WIND: 205 MPH
* PATH LENGTH: 2.82 MILES
* MAXIMUM WIDTH: 1/2 MILE
* FATALITIES: 14
* INJURIES: 40
* SUMMARY OF DAMAGES: 18 HOMES DESTROYED…2 BUSINESSES /POST
OFFICE AND POLICE STATION/ DESTROYED…8 HOMES WITH MAJOR
DAMAGE…7 BUSINESSES WITH MAJOR DAMAGE…44 HOMES WITH MINOR
DAMAGE…AND WATER SYSTEM DESTROYED. MOST TREES EITHER SNAPPED
OR TWISTED AND DEBARKED. MOST THE HOMES DESTROYED WERE WELL
BUILT…TWO STORIES…LESS THAN TEN YEARS OLD AND BOLTED DOWN TO
THEIR FOUNDATIONS. AN 1965 CHEVY PICKUP TRUCK PARKED IN FRONT
ONE OF THE DESTROYED HOMES HAS NOT BEEN FOUND. ALL APPLIANCES
AND PLUMBING FIXTURES IN THE MOST EXTREME DAMAGE PATH SHREDDED