Victims not forgotten as floods near

JACKSON – Northeast Mississippi communities ravaged by April tornadoes will not be forgotten as the state prepares for potentially record flooding along the Mississippi River and some of its tributaries.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Womack said Wednesday that “we are really fortunate” to be able to pull local emergency responders from other areas of the state to deal with the tornadoes that left 37 residents dead, including 15 in Smithville.
Womack said more MEMA personnel will be shifted soon to west Mississippi, where flooding is expected in mid-May, but federal and local officials still will be available to help tornado victims.
During a news conference Wednesday, Gov. Haley Barbour provided an update on the projected flood and encouraged people in probable flood areas to evacuate.
Barbour also praised the response of local officials dealing with the tornadoes.
“Right now we are trying to get started on debris removal,” he said. “A lot of the debris removal will be really difficult. Some places suffered terrible destruction.”
Womack said his agency can handle multiple disasters thanks to help from local responders and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He said many of his staff, including about 120 state-supported personnel and about 100 who are funded through Katrina-recovery grants, will leave the tornado damage to deal with the flood.
But he said FEMA has 230 people in the state providing assistance to tornado victims and is scheduled to send another 70 people.
Plus, he said, just as responders from other parts of the state aided the Gulf Coast after Katrina hit in 2005, emergency personnel from south and central Mississippi now are helping tornado victims in the northeast.

Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@journalinc.com.

Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal