May 30, 2014 10:51:36 AM
A month after a series of tornadoes cut a swath through Lowndes County, officials are encouraged by the progress made toward recovery.
"I think we are definitely making good progress," Cindy Lawrence, director of the Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency, said. "At this point, we are focusing on making sure that every person affected by the storms has registered for the services they are eligible to receive. It's the next phase of our recovery."
Lawrence said more than 500 people have registered so far, roughly a month after a series of tornadoes hit the county on April 28.
According to Thomas Kempton, spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 399 people have registered for aid at the two FEMA sites in the county. Kempton said the New Hope office, which closes at 6 p.m. today, had 360 visits that generated 125 registrations. The office located at 222 Lawrence Drive in Columbus will remain open indefinitely. To date, that office has had 441 visitors resulting in 174 registrations.
Lawrence said more than 100 people were registered by field workers.
"It is important to note that while not everyone that came to the center registered they were all assisted by specialists from MEMA, FEMA, Red Cross or the Small Business Administration," Kempton said. "Some received food vouchers for Salvation Army or other voluntary assistance agencies or a referral to other agencies by the representative of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency."
Although there won't be a firm estimate of the damage until all of the claims have been processed, Lawrence estimated the damage in Lowndes County will exceed $1 million.
State-wide, FEMA officials say more than $11 million in aid has been approved for residents throughout the state. A total of 10 centers have served nearly 4,100 survivors across the affected counties, Kempton said.
In addition to finishing up the registration process, the focus continues on debris clean-up.
County officials have urged residents affected by the storm to have their debris moved to the curb by Sunday.
Last week, the United Way put out a call for volunteers to help with residents whose physical condition makes it difficult to move debris.
"We're still in need of people who can come and help get debris to the side of the road," said Patricia Brock of the United Way of Lowndes County. "We probably have about 80 homes that haven't even been touched yet. We still probably have a couple of week's worth of work to do before we get all the debris collected and put at the road sides."
Those who are interested in volunteering in debris cleanup can contact the United Way at 662-328-0943 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
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