Response quick to MS tornadoes

Disaster response organizations survey damage, open shelter, plan response.

BY STEPHANIE BACKUS | MAGEE, MS | March 26, 2009


Disaster response efforts are underway in Mississippi where at least 24 people were injured during an outbreak of tornadoes in Mississippi early Thursday morning. More than 100 homes were also damaged.

Several disaster response organizations have teams on the ground in Mississippi and are helping determine what needs residents have.

The American Red Cross opened a shelter at the First Baptist Church (SBC) in Magee. According to the National Weather Service an EF3 tornado struck in Magee about 1:30 Thursday morning.

"Right now we've got our assessment teams out to figure out what impact we've got. We're helping with first responder feeding. Right now, we're basically trying to assist getting generators," said Warren Miller, Red Cross Program Manager for the State of Mississippi.

The Mississippi Southern Baptists are also parked at the church, preparing meals for the displaced. They were prepared to serve 500 meals Thursday night.

Several organizations were also on standby, ready to send teams when Mississippi Emergency Management Agency was ready to let teams into Simpson County, MS. Simpson County was the hardest hit in the storms. Several homes, businesses and a church were all destroyed by the tornado.

"We have a lot of teams still in the area doing survey work," said Jay Huffstatler, president of the Mississippi Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster Thursday afternoon. "Hopefully by (Friday) morning, we can find out more about what is needed and when we can get in there."

Mississippi United Methodist Disaster Relief is doing assessments in Magee, and has two teams staying overnight to do specialized jobs, such as tarping before the next wave of rain falls. Children's Disaster Services from Church of the Brethren are on standby, ready to help at shelters as needed.

Trees and powerlines were reported down in several counties on Thursday. Power outages are being reported in several counties as well. The Mississippi Department of Transportation and power companies are working to repair power.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour declared a state of emergency for all counties reporting damage.

No details are being given about the nature of injuries sustained in the storms, but officials said no deaths have been reported. The area is bracing for the possibility of more storms Thursday night and Friday morning. Heavy rainfall has made flooding a risk in the state as well.


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