Obama declares disaster in wake of storms as death toll rises

APTOPIX Severe WeatherACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Seven counties in Mississippi have been declared federal disaster areas following devastation from severe storms and tornadoes that swept through the state beginning April 28.

Gov. Phil Bryant requested the expedited declaration from President Obama on April 29, and Mississippi’s congressional delegation yesterday sent a letter to the president in support of the governor’s request.

The counties eligible for the Individual Assistance Program are Itawamba, Lee, Lowndes, Madison, Rankin, Wayne, and Winston. Individual Assistance is aid provided to individuals and households and can include housing assistance, unemployment assistance, and money to replace damaged or destroyed belongings.

The same counties are also eligible for certain types of aid through FEMA’s Public Assistance program. FEMA’s Public Assistance program administers aid to state and local governments and certain non-profit organizations. Through this program, costs incurred since April 28 by the eligible counties, governments and non-profits could be reimbursed by FEMA through its 75 percent cost-sharing program.

The Public Assistance aid available at this time includes assistance in Categories A and B. FEMA Category A Public Assistance includes 75 percent reimbursement for eligible costs incurred from removing and disposing of storm debris from public properties and rights of way. FEMA Category B Public Assistance includes 75 percent reimbursement for eligible emergency work, including actions to prevent threats to life and property and overtime incurred by emergency responders.

Mississippi also received approval to administer FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Program. This program provides assistance for actions that reduce the risk to life and property from natural hazards.

As more thorough damage assessments are completed by state and federal inspection teams, additional categories of assistance, such as aid in repairing or replacing public buildings and aid in repairing damaged roads, may be added. Further damage assessments could also warrant an updated request from the state to extend Individual Assistance and Public Assistance aid to additional counties.

In separate storm-related news, National Weather Service survey teams say the tornado that killed nine people in Winston County also destroyed or damaged hundreds of buildings and uprooted and snapped thousands of trees, stripping the bark from others on its 35.5-mile path.

A report on the Jackson office’s webpage says winds up to 185 mph wiped several homes and apartments from their slabs, collapsed industrial buildings, destroyed chicken houses and heavily damaged hundreds of buildings. The path was up to three-quarters of a mile wide, and the tornado varied from EF2 to EF4.

Reports are incomplete on the EF3 tornado that killed a Rankin County woman and an EF1 twister with 105-mph winds that left a 10-mile track northwest of Utica.

Meteorologist Daniel Lamb said survey teams rated two other tornadoes EF1. One was north of Bolton in Hinds County and one southeast of Vicksburg.

Lamb said damage across the Mississippi River from Vicksburg in Madison Parish, La., was from straight winds rather than a twister.

He said survey teams will continue their work today.

Also, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has received a confirmed report of another storm related death in Leake County, raising the total to 13 in the state as a result of tornadoes and severe weather on Monday.

Damage is being reported in 23 counties with at least 945 homes destroyed or sustained major damage with a total of more than 1,750 homes affected. In addition preliminary assessments show 65 businesses destroyed or sustained major damage.

The counties reporting storm-related deaths are as follows:

  • Issaquena: One death.
  • Leake: One death
  • Lee: One death.
  • Rankin: One death.
  • Winston: Nine deaths, one child still missing.

A volunteer reception center will open at noon today in Winston County in the parking lot of the Louisville Coliseum, 201 Ivy Ave. in Louisville.

Two shelters are open in Lee and Winston counties:

  • Louisville- First Baptist Church, 305 S. Church Ave.
  • Tupelo- BanccorpSouth Building, 375 E. Main St.

 

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