May 6, 2014 10:26:26 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
A Disaster Recovery Center is now open at the New Hope Community Center to help those who have been affected by the April 28 tornadoes.
Officials from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency will staff the center at 381 Stadium Rd. to explain disaster assistance programs and how to apply for federal assistance.
The center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. six days a week until further notice, Lowndes County EMA director Cindy Lawrence said.
More information on how to register can be found at disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-222-MEMA (6362).
Jim Sutherland, Director of the Lowndes County Department of Human Services, said more than 700 people who qualify for SNAP assistance after being out of power for 12 straight hours have applied to have their food supply replenished. A program to help those affected who are not on SNAP may be forthcoming, he said.
Opportunities are still available for those still looking to help, coordinators from local agencies said during an EMA meeting Monday.
Lowndes County United Way Director Leslie Peel said she needs more people who have chainsaws and can volunteer to cut trees. Last weekend she had student volunteers from the Mississippi University for Women to assist with cleanup and will have a squadron from the Columbus Air Force Base this coming weekend, but there are limitations on what can be done right now, she said.
"I've got a list of about 25 homeowners that have trees down in their yard or on their house. My issue right now is that I don't have anybody to cut the trees," Peel said. "Until I can find somebody with chainsaws to cut the trees ... I can't send out the (other) volunteers that I do have."
Tamara Lapsley, Disaster Program Manager for the American Red Cross, said she's also short on personnel. ARC volunteers will be on hand at the Disaster Recovery Center to help those who do not qualify for FEMA aid, she said, adding that the agency has passed out shovels and tarp among other materials to assist those who suffered property damage from the severe weather.
"Everyone who is working for me is not from Mississippi, so I either need someone to take them out or someone to give some more accurate maps to where I can send them right on top of (an affected site)," Lapsley said. "We want to make sure we catch the people we don't know we missed."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.