Doug Bird, branch director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's new area coordination center in Starkville, discusses FEMA's response to the recent tornado outbreak in Mississippi. The new FEMA facility in Starkville, located in the old Kia building at Highway 12 and the Highway 25 bypass, serves as a support center and staging area for FEMA workers assisting disaster victims in the area. Photo by: Tim Pratt
May 18, 2010 11:56:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- A once-vacant building at Highway 12 and the Highway 25 bypass is now home to a disaster coordination center for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The approximately 10,400-square-foot building was constructed in 2002 for a proposed Kia dealership, but Kia never moved in and the structure has remained empty for the past eight years.
The FEMA Central Branch Area Coordination Center opened in the building this weekend and will serve FEMA and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency workers who are assisting disaster victims in Oktibbeha, Choctaw, Attala and Monroe counties, where tornadoes touched down April 24 and caused extensive damage. The building, which is owned by Cadence Bank, will serve as a staging area and technical support center for FEMA and MEMA workers in the area, branch director Doug Bird said.
"They come here, they stage out of here, they work out of here," Bird said. "This is just an office space, centrally located, with easy access to Highway 12 and Highway 25."
An EF-4 tornado formed April 24 outside of Tallulah, La., headed northeast into Mississippi and left a path of destruction until it lifted just north of Sturgis in western Oktibbeha County, according to the National Weather Service. The twister left 10 people dead from Yazoo County to Choctaw County, although no deaths or injuries were reported in Oktibbeha County.
A new tornado, this one rated an EF-2 with an estimated maximum wind speed of 115 miles per hour, touched down shortly thereafter about four miles northwest of Starkville and remained on the ground for approximately six miles, according to the National Weather Service. It had a maximum path width of approximately 800 yards.
One unoccupied mobile home was destroyed near the corner of Highway 389 and Sun Creek Road. The twister also damaged 20 homes along Sun Creek and Mitchell roads, snapped and uprooted numerous trees, damaged a barn and snapped three power poles.
Between 15 and 18 people are now working out of FEMA''s Starkville office, mostly as technical support for FEMA and MEMA workers in the field, but Bird expects as many as 25 people to call Starkville their temporary home over the next few weeks. The nearest coordination centers are located in Ackerman and Yazoo City, said FEMA public information officer Gene Kauffman.
"It''s quite a ways for people who are assigned up here to drive (to Ackerman and Yazoo City)," Kauffman said.
Bird said he is unsure how long FEMA will occupy the building, but estimated it will be anywhere from a few weeks to 1 1/2 months.
"We really don''t know," he said. "As soon as we get the work done. Our objective is to work a job, to get everybody serviced and get everybody taken care of, housed, or whatever has to happen."
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