Leaders ask for federal help as flooding continues

With many Mississippi counties still dealing with damage and flooding after recent severe weather, the state’s entire delegation in D.C. has joined Governor Phil Bryant in calling for a federal disaster declaration.

Mississippi’s congressional delegation, which includes U.S. Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith and U.S. Representatives Bennie Thompson, Steven Palazzo, Trent Kelly and Michael Guest, sent a letter to President Trump requesting full consideration of Governor Bryant’s request for a federal disaster declaration in the wake of devastating weather events and record flooding across the state.

The delegation’s letter referenced preliminary damage reports that show 43 of Mississippi’s 82 counties have been affected. The letter also referenced Governor Bryant’s request, which documented at least 1,323 lost or damaged homes, 126 affected businesses, 839 destroyed or damaged roads, 35 impacted bridges, and one fatality. Fifteen Mississippi counties are currently experiencing flooding, which will cause these initial assessments to increase.

Related: Governor Bryant meets with MEMA amid flooding

One of the regions that has been hit the hardest by flooding is the Mississippi Delta. According to Ray Coleman with MEMA, the overflowing of the backwaters of the Mississippi River are a major concern, and it has destroyed homes and land in the area while also causing road closures.

Coleman says that MEMA is working with local officials to ensure the safety of Delta residents and that while they are closely following the water levels, they don’t expect the flooding to subside in the coming weeks.

“We are asking folks to be mindful that the river is not going to go down any time soon,” Coleman explained. “We have to play the long game and practice patience, but we also have to be vigilant in understanding that the things that local and state officials are putting in place are life-saving measures. So, if you hear us put out a warning, take heed.”

He noted that the river may not return to its normal level until early May and that evacuations could occur.

“If they call for a mandatory evacuation, you’ve got to get out. We understand that folks want to protect their homes and their property, but your life is far more important,” he said. “So, understand that when they close off roads to your neighborhood, they’re not doing it to inconvenience you, they’re literally doing it as a life-saving measure.”

Coleman said it’s important to know the location of local shelters ahead of time in case you are forced to evacuate.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg is monitoring the situation, and after they recently opened the Muddy Bayou Control Structure to ease the flooding of Eagle Lake, they are hoping to use to the Steele Bayou Control Structure in early April to assist the Delta.

Related: Army Corps looks to control Vicksburg flooding

The full text of the congressional delegation’s letter to President Trump can be seen below.

Dear President Trump,

“In the wake of recent devastating weather events and record flooding across the State of Mississippi, we request your full consideration of Governor Phil Bryant’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration under the Stafford Act.

We appreciate the efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deploy rapidly to Mississippi to assist state and local officials in estimating the severity of damages across our State from heavy rainfall, severe weather, flooding, and tornadoes.  We recognize that damages continue to occur and pose ongoing safety issues along waters in the State, especially the Mississippi River, Yazoo River (from backwater flooding), and Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway. 

According to preliminary reports, 43 of Mississippi’s 82 counties have been affected.  In the State, 37 counties and 16 municipalities have issued local proclamations of emergency.  As Governor Bryant indicated in his request, an initial evaluation of the damages from the severe storms showed at least 1,323 lost or damaged homes, 126 affected businesses, 839 destroyed or damaged roads, 35 impacted bridges, and one fatality. These numbers will likely grow as future assessments cover the approximately 15 counties still facing flooding.

Resources from the State, local governments, and volunteer organizations are not adequate to recover from these damages.  The effects of torrential rain, severe storms, flooding, and tornadoes require significant funding and cooperation to recover as quickly as possible.  We stand ready to face this challenge by supporting the local communities, the State, and Federal agencies as we work together to rebuild and renew areas affected by these major weather events.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.  Please do not hesitate to contact us should you need further assistance in this effort.

Sincerely,

Roger F. Wicker, United States Senator
Cindy Hyde-Smith, United States Senator
Bennie G. Thompson, Member of Congress
Steven Palazzo, Member of Congress
Trent Kelly, Member of Congress
Michael Guest, Member of Congress”