FEMA visits as Mississippi River reaches crest

Published 11:38 am Monday, April 21, 2008

VICKSBURG (AP) — Gov. Haley Barbour and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials prepared Monday to tour flooded areas along the Mississippi River to assess the damage.

The river crested in Vicksburg on Saturday and was expected to reach its highest point in Natchez on Monday. Dozens of homes have been destroyed and hundreds more affected by the high water.

“When it’s not a fast-acting disaster, I think sometimes we don’t notice it as much,” said Anna Booth, Vicksburg emergency management director. “But there are a lot of people in need, and they will continue to be in need for some time.”

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Booth said FEMA officials will be conducting a preliminary run-through to see if residents qualify for individual help while displaced. FEMA workers will return once the river subsides, but that could take a month or more.

Barbour has already declared a state of emergency and is expected to sign a disaster declaration Tuesday. That could lead to assistance for homeowners and small businesses affected by the flood. Millions in damages are expected for area farmers, who have lost wheat and corn and valuable planting time because of the flood.

Some displaced residents could be eligible for programs such as rental assistance while forced out of their homes.

Prentiss Ross and his wife have lived near the river for more than 15 years. They’ve been staying in a hotel for more than a week, and were expecting to spend a few more days there after checking over flood damage at their house Sunday.

“We’re kind of used to it flooding over here,” he said. “But it’s never been this bad.”

It’s frustrating waiting out the flood, but Ross wouldn’t live anywhere else.

“I definitely want to stay here,” he said. “We’re going to keep this spot.”