EMA Director Bradford: ‘The devastation is unbelievable’

Published 11:53 am Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

NATCHEZ — Robert Bradford has been providing help to Mississippians who have survived tornadoes and other types of destructive events for decades, but what he has seen in Rolling Fork is on a scale that is unmatched in his experience.

Bradford, director of Adams County Emergency Management and its Emergency Operations Center, has been on the ground in Rolling Fork since Saturday. He arrived there as soon as it was safe to travel to that area after a tornado Friday night.

“This is far worse than any I’ve ever seen. I think they have determined it was an EF-4 tornado. The devastation is unbelievable. To be honest, I think lots of people here are still in shock, never having witnessed this kind of damage before,” Bradford said.

Email newsletter signup

An EF-4 tornado cut a path through Rolling Fork, Silver City and Amory, killing dozens decimating what was the town of Rolling Fork on Saturday.

Bradford said about 85 percent of the buildings in Rolling Fork have been significantly damaged or destroyed.

“We have been up until today in response mode. Today, we transitions to recovery mode,” Bradford said. “Grocery stores, gas stations, they are gone. City hall, the sheriff’s office, police department, the courthouse and the hospital were all damaged.”

Rolling Fork is in Sharkey County, one of the economically poorest in the state. Sharkey is a county that depends primarily on farming, producing corn, soybeans, rice and cotton.

“The county supervisors here just approved an emergency contract with debris removal companies. Now, they are awaiting for approval from the Department of Environmental Quality on places to put that debris,” he said. “I would estimate that debris removal will probably begin on Thursday or this week.”

Because of damage at the hospital, Bradford and his group are working to set up an emergency hospital at the National Guard Armory.

“We have also requested that mobile hospitals be brought in here,” he said. “FEMA is on the ground here and we hope they will begin issuing individual assistance this week. We have also requested lights and generators to light up neighborhoods to law enforcement can effectively patrol. I did speak to the local sheriff and they are experiencing lots of looting. People are taking advantage of the neighborhoods without power and looting.”

Sunscreen, Gatorade and Chapstick are much-needed items.

“Pretty much all of the trees have been blown down, so the conditions are harsh,” Bradford said.

Sharkey County only had a part-time emergency operations center and Bradford is specifically working to set up one of those full time and to staff it in order to provide help to residents there.

“I plan to stay for two weeks or so, until we get the Emergency Operations Center up and running,” he said.

Monetary donations are what the people here need most, Bradford said.

“If you go to the MEMA website, you can click on the link and donate.”

The City of Natchez is also accepting donations of Gatorade, sunscreen, chapstick, new blankets and pillows, flashlights, batteries and insect repellent.

Those donations can be taken to Natchez Fire Station No. 1 on Main Street or to the Natchez Police Department on D’Evereux Drive.

“Many families have been displaced, and fortunately Mississippians are responding with help. It’s our turn to pitch in,” Mayor Dan Gibson said.