The town's mayor, Gregg Kennedy, on his 50th birthday Wednesday, told the crowd of about 250 that the town was well on its way to recovery. Water was flowing to residents' homes thanks to a water system the town had installed a couple years ago about seven miles away. A boil water notice is still in effect, however. Power was also being restored and much of the debris was beginning to be pushed into piles for removal.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is contracting for debris remova on anyone's property who signs off for the free service. Monroe County Administrator Sonny Clay said the Corps' involvement was "unprecedented." The contractors were expected to be in Smithville and Wren by Monday. Only Monroe County contractors can bid on the storm debris work in order to keep the money and jobs local.
County garbage collection will begin in Smithville immediately. Kennedy said the town's own green garbage dumpsters blew away. Residents are to use the county's brown dumpsters and there will be no charge for the service while the town is recovering.
Persons who need assistance should register with FEMA as a first step. They can call 1-800-621-3362. Even persons who have insurance but don't know how much of their damage is covered by their policy should register. FEMA will conduct an inspection of their home.
MEMA officials informed the residents that a program is available that will pay for 75 percent of the cost of purchasing a storm shelter, up to $4,000 reimbursement. This program, A Safe Place to Go, can be accessed online at www.msema.org. The program is for any resident in Monroe County.
Clay said it appears as if the entire clean-up project for Smithville could be a $6 million project. In federal disasters, normally cities are expected to pay about 12.5 percent of that, the state 12.5 percent and 75 percent federal funds. Smithville may not have to pay any of it, Clay said, noting that details of that are still being confirmed.
FEMA officials said FEMA housing is being brought in and will be put on cleaned off home slabs for people to live in temporarily.
Monroe County Emergency Management Coordinator Bunky Goza said the Am. Red Cross would be pulling out its meal operation Thursday but will still have mental health counselors available. The Salvation Army still will have services available in Smithville. There is also a warehouse on loan from Townhouse Furniture that has donations of food, clothing, household items and more that residents who qualify can get. It is open from 8-6 weekdays and is behind the Piggly Wiggly grocery store.
People removing debris with heavy equipment are urged to use caution as the natural gas has been turned back on and power lines are also live again.
Anyone wishing to volunteer should check in at the baseball field by the school and register with FEMA. Volunteers will be assigned jobs.
New storm warning sirens will also be installed throughout Smithville. Kennedy said they will be twice as powerful as the last ones that did, in fact, go off prior to the EF-5 tornado. "We have already ordered them and they will be here and be better ones. I believe the sirens helped save lives," he said.
Monroe County Sheriff Andy Hood said the curfew will remain in effect for a while longer. It has been extended from 7:30 p.m. until 6 a.m. Residents in the southern portion of the town may enter with a special pass.
A burn ban is also still in effect throughout the county. Only the Corps of Engineers is exempt from the burn ban.
During the town meeting, just to the south a funeral for longtime Smithville resident Jesse Cox was being conducted in view of the meeting. Cox lost his life in the storm. The distant sound of taps being played was a sad reminder to those at the meeting that they had been spared and blessed.
Smithville Baptist Pastor Wes White closed the meeting with a prayer. He said Smithville would be restored. "We will see the resurrection power of God," he said, as a chorus of amens were heard. "Our community has been deeply wounded," he said. "We ask for God's healing."