President signs dual disaster declarations
As of Wednesday this week, 278 people affected by Mississippi River flooding have registered with FEMA in Tunica County, with 213 of those requesting housing assistance and 133 already found eligible for that housing assistance. Another 286 people have registered due to storm damage in April, FEMA officials say.
The dual disasters are causing some confusion. Both the April storms that produced damaging winds and flash floods and also historic flooding along the Mississippi River have been declared federal disasters by President Barack Obama, clearing the way for individual assistance for the victims of both events.
President Obama signed the declaration for the river flood late last Wednesday, May 11. Counties included in that declaration, designated number 1983 DR, are Tunica, DeSoto, Coahoma, Bolivar, Adams, Claiborne, Jefferson, Humphreys, Issaquena, Sharkey, Warren, Washington, Wilkinson and Yazoo.
The disaster declarations make federal assistance grants and programs available to individuals. Such assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, crisis counseling, disaster unemployment assistance, USDA food coupons and distribution, disaster legal services, the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Small Business Administration disaster loans for affected residents in the 14 declared counties.
The storm damage declaration has an entirely separate number, however. This number is 1972 DR. Those registering for assistance should be certain that the correct number is attached to their application.
Individuals and business owners in these counties who sustained losses can begin applying for assistance by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired or by registering online at www.disasterassistance.gov. The toll free numbers operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time seven days a week until further notice.
A Disaster Recovery Center is now open in Tunica County for victims of storm damage, flash flooding and river flooding in Tunica, Tate, DeSoto, Coahoma, Quitman and Panola counties.
The center is a one-stop shop for information and for applying for assistance. Representatives from FEMA, MEMA, SBA, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and other help agencies are on hand to answer questions, solve problems and help with paperwork. Even if you registered with FEMA by phone, agency representatives at the center can answer any questions you may have.
The center is located at the Dundee Recreation Center, 9140 Dundee Road. Travel south on Highway 61 about 13 miles from the town of Tunica, and turn west on Dundee Road. You can see the center from the highway.
Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. through 7 p.m.
Remember, the river flooding declaration number is 1983; the storm damage number is 1972. Officials say it will help to have these numbers when you apply for assistance.
Those affected in either disaster are not required to visit a DRC to register, but they do have to call 1-800-621-FEMA.
FEMA housing inspectors are already meeting with those who have applied for assistance. Officials stress that these inspectors will always have identification tags that include a photograph and expiration date. Some of the tags may include Department of Homeland Security logos and acronyms.
Authorized inspectors will never ask for Social Security numbers or money, officials say.
Receding waters signal recovery phase
Even as the Mississippi River is still well above flood stage (at 43.2 on the Memphis gauge on May 18), the disaster’s recovery phase is underway.
Officials updated those affected by river flooding and April’s storm damage last Friday, May 13, but some questions still remain.
Of particular concern are 351 of 354 structures at Tunica Cut-off that have been damaged to some extent by floodwaters.
BREAKING NEWS: Casino reopening close
As of 7 a.m., the Mississippi River had fallen to 45.6 feet, Emergency Management officials said at the May 16 briefing.
Although still above flood stage, the receding waters may allow for a few area casinos to reopen this week. Mississippi Gaming Commission officials said that surveillance has been approved at Gold Strike Casino. They plan to inspect Road House and Horseshoe's surveillance this week. All surveillance details must be approved before any casino can be reopened.
Jimmie Neal, chief of the North Tunica Fire Department, said he was concerned about roads leading to The Fitz and Sam's Town, Resorts, and Hollywood.
MEMA officials agreed saying that roads that have been sitting under water being saturated could have been weakened.
Emergency Management Director Randy Stewart said that officials were being extra cautious and the county engineer was on standby to inspect all effected roads.
"We don't want to open the casinos today and have to close two days later," Stewart said.
Stewart said he hoped to have a list of scheduled casino openings late Monday or early Tuesday.
Changes to districts, polls leave public uncertain
Candidates and elected officials monopolized a public hearing on Tunica County’s proposed redistricting plan on Monday, May 9. Officials will likely host another hearing for residents of the Tunica Cut-off soon.
Chris Watson, a redistricting consultant with Oxford based Bridge and Watson, presented an overview of the plan. The Board of Supervisors reviewed the plan several weeks ago.
Board of Supervisors attorney Andy Dulaney said the need for redistricting developed following the 2010 census.
“Once we received and analyzed the data, we realized some deviation had occurred,” Dulaney said.
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