STARKVILLE — Officials say it could take months for businesses to recover from high winds and heavy rain from violent winter storms that hit Oktibbeha, Lowndes and Holmes counties Feb. 16.
A week later, another powerful storm ripped across Mississippi causing millions of dollars in damage and claiming a number of lives. Pontotoc County was especially hard hit.
In Starkville, the cleanup continues.
“We’ve spent $500,000 for storm-related damage so far, and we’ve been working around the clock with contractors, who are hauling more than 100 loads of debris away every day,” said Starkville Mayor Mack Rutledge, a week after storms blew through the city.
“The city received enormous damage to its electrical distribution system and some businesses, particularly retails stores, were severely impacted because they were without current,” he said. “Those losses are serious and regrettable. However, business activity overall has been very vigorous because so many expenditures are involved in the recovery process.”
On Feb. 23, the same day the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated damages at $11.4 million, President Bush approved millions of dollars in emergency aid to Mississippi when he issued a full-scale emergency declaration that allows local municipalities in the three counties to receive federal reimbursement for up to 75% of the cost of debris removal and public building repairs. Last week, that disaster declaration was expanded to cover additional counties devastated by storms.
Tommy Tomlinson, chairman of the Starkville Chamber of Commerce, said the American Red Cross will probably spend “upwards of half a million dollars” in the area.
Larry Bowman, disaster branch chief of MEMA, said the damages haven’t been categorized yet. “We’re still getting in reports of damage from remote areas,” he said.
Joe Koch, owner of The City Bagel Caf
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