FEMA to assess damage from powerful storms in central Miss.

Published 10:51 am Wednesday, April 9, 2008

FEMA to assess damage from powerful storms in central Miss.


Associated Press Writer

Email newsletter signup

JACKSON (AP) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent teams into Mississippi to tour areas where last week’s violent storms damaged homes.

Gov. Haley Barbour told state lawmakers Tuesday that the hardest hit areas — Hinds County and the city of Jackson — might qualify for FEMA assistance. He said other areas might be eligible for low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration.

“We don’t want to pay for anything with state money that we could pay with federal money,” Barbour said during a briefing at the Capitol.

Crews with chain saws continued working Tuesday to cut and remove massive trees that were uprooted Friday when five tornadoes whipped across the state from Vicksburg through the Jackson metropolitan area and over to Scott County. Other areas, including Meridian, had damage from powerful straight-line winds.

Mike Womack, director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, told lawmakers that more than 8,000 homes and 100 businesses were damaged.

No one was killed by the storm system, but 22 were injured.

Jackson Mayor Frank Melton told legislators that with the possibility of more severe weather in the next few days: “I’m having all of our emergency sirens checked.” Some sirens in the area failed last week.

Larry Fisher, the Hinds County emergency director, said the damage in Hinds County “drastically exceeded” what the area had during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Although Katrina caused the most severe damage along the coast, it still had hurricane-force winds and knocked down thousands of trees when it reached central Mississippi.

Fisher estimated it will take up to two months to haul away all the debris left from last Friday’s storms.

Entergy Mississippi officials said early Wednesday that about 480 customers in Jackson remained without power. The utility expected to get service restored Wednesday.

Friday’s storms pulled down almost 400 electric poles in the Jackson metropolitan area and in Vicksburg and originally cut off power to 94,000 homes in four counties.

Officials say they’re trying to head off price gouging with cleanup crews.