Storm-weary Mississippi residents are facing another possible round of severe weather this weekend, only days after tornadoes plowed through the state and left a wide swath of destruction.
National Weather Service meteorologist Daniel Lamb said that a “potent” storm system could hit Friday or Saturday, possibly stalling and dumping enough rain to cause some flooding. He said it’s too early to make a clear forecast, but the weather service is watching developments.
“I wouldn’t make any comparisons to the last system because that’s something that’s very rare and exceptional,” Lamb said.
Tornadoes skipped through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama this past Saturday, killing 10 in Mississippi and two in Alabama. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said it’s the worst storm the state has had since Hurricane Katrina nearly five years ago.
Teams of state and federal workers are continuing to assess damage in Mississippi, and Barbour said he asked President Barack Obama on Tuesday to declare Yazoo and Choctaw counties major disaster areas, which would allow people there to apply for federal financial assistance, if granted. State and federal officials are still assessing damage in other counties
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney estimated Tuesday that insured losses in Mississippi will be at least $50 million and uninsured losses will be at least $10 million.
“We do expect some relief for businesses with limited insurance, like low-cost loans,” Chaney said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency eventually could provide financial assistance for temporary rental housing for people who lost their homes in the tornado. FEMA also could provide grants to help with repairs or rebuilding.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency director Mike Womack said MEMA has about 50 portable cottages on the coast that were used as temporary housing after Katrina but are now empty, and those could be brought to people left homeless by tornadoes.
However, Womack said a person who accepts a cottage might become ineligible for financial assistance from FEMA. He said FEMA trailers would only be brought to tornado victims if there is not enough rental housing available. He said he does not expect to see a need for the trailers.
Crews are still cutting thousands of fallen trees, bulldozing debris from ruined buildings and putting blue tarps on damaged roofs.
The tornadoes injured at least 49 people and damaged about 700 homes in Mississippi, with the biggest destruction in Yazoo, Choctaw and Holmes counties.
Holmes County emergency management director Jerome Granderson said Tuesday that 53 homes and trailers in the county were destroyed and 44 were damaged. Pine trees snapped like twigs, he said. He said people with chain saws have been clearing timber from roads and driveways.
“It’s neighbor helping neighbor,” Granderson said.
Holmes County Chancery Clerk Dorothy Jean Smith toured the damaged areas and said homes were wiped from their slabs.
“There were a couple of people I talked to, they didn’t know where their vehicles were,” Smith said.
In Yazoo City, Tri-C Construction company owner Richard Powell stood Monday afternoon on the roof of a Double Quick convenience store on U.S. 49.
Yellow insulation flapped in exposed areas where the exterior walls meet the roof.
“With a storm like that, some damage was inevitable,” said Powell, who arrived at the store about a half-hour after the tornado.
He said repairs to the store should take about a week. The tornado ripped away an aluminum canopy and damaged three of the five gasoline pumps. On the highway next to the store, a Yield sign leaned at a 45-degree angle.
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