Tornado Response and Recovery
This afternoon in Forrest County, Governor Phil Bryant, officials with MEMA, and members of several volunteer relief organizations met to give an update on the widespread damage. They also discussed the plans they’ve put in place to organize a smooth operating system for volunteers interested in helping the people affected by the recent tornado.
“We’ve had Katrina. We had a flood two years ago and four years ago we had an EF4 and now we have an EF3. There’s a lot of lessons learned and you can see the people behind us, it’s almost on autopilot.” Mayor Johnny Dupree was calm and collected as he discussed the state of Hattiesburg and the road to recovery in the wake of this weekend’s EF3 tornado.
Alongside the mayor, MEMA officials and volunteer agencies put a strong emphasis on organization when establishing procedures for those who plan to come to the Hub City’s aid. MEMA Director Lee Smithson said, “We need all the help we can get and this is going to be a month’s long program, not a week long program, but people that are wanting to volunteer to come down, we ask that they coordinate with the Pine Belt Community Foundation Volunteer Reception Center to make sure that we don’t have spontaneous volunteers.”
Monica Ritchie with Volunteer Mississippi said, “We’ll have two volunteer response centers, VRC centers, set up in the area. The first one will be located at 410 South Tipton and that is East Jerusalem Baptist Church. The second response center will be located at Petal Upper Elementary. You must come through one of our response centers to register.”
With a monumental task ahead of the entire Pine Belt region, Governor Phil Bryant is certain that the people of Mississippi will find a way to turn a natural disaster into a positive situation. “We will see a great deal of economic development that occurs in times of disaster because it has to. It will take Mississippians to rebuild these homes, to rebuild William Carey University, and to make sure the infrastructure has been replaced.”