Declaration makes locals eligible for storm help

This aerial photo shows Chuquatonchee Creek jammed with logs and debris where it goes under Bill Dexter Road not far from the Monroe County line in northeastern Clay County. The flooding caused by the debris threatens the road and surrounding land and has continued well past the rainy season. Local leaders hope federal disaster assistance will help clear the creek and prevent the lasting flooding it has caused in the area.
Staff Writer

Clay County gets another federal disaster declaration for damage caused by flooding and strong winds April 13-14, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Friday.

And this one includes assistance for individual property owners who suffered damage from extensive flooding April 13-14 when as much as five inches of rain fell on parts of the county in less than two hours.

That, combined with the ground already saturated from a record-wet winter and early spring, sent creeks overflowing their banks in both the county and the city, especially Town Creek through the heart of West Point and a creek that runs along the city’s eastern edge.

Homes and businesses along Bugg Street and in the Sav-A-Lot shopping center were among the hardest hit in the city, as well as Ridgewood East Apartments.

In the county, Old Tibbee, Melton Bottom, McLemore Bottom and numerous other roads were flooded. Drainage culverts were washed out in several places, including a major one on Dr. Sears Road and smaller ones on on Lake Grove Road.

Labor costs to have crews respond to the flooding to close roads, put up barriers and monitor conditions also are covered.

The combined city and county claim was $104,900, according to Emergency Management Director Torrey Williams and additional projects are being added.

Statewide, 19 tornadoes were recorded that weekend.

As part of the Public Assistance program, assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding to Clarke, Clay, Itawamba, Kemper, Monroe, Oktibbeha, Warren, and Yazoo counties, FEMA said in its announcement.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide. That could include everything from repairing storm sirens to work to prevent future flooding, such as the work the city has been doing along Town Creek, if approved by the Feds.

West Point is adding its drainage mitigation work, including Town Creek as well as creeks near West Point High School, Church Hill Road and other areas.

“It can be a real benefit for the city because it can get some reimbursement for work it did after the fact to prevent damage from happening in the future. That’s a real benefit,” Williams said.

The county also is including some areas south of Una that continue to have water issues despite mild weather for two months. Those problems are attributed to the earlier flooding, Williams said.

FEMA has not yet outlined the type of assistance available to individual property owners, but the declaration does include them. That’s in contrast to an April 23 declaration for flooding and deadly tornadoes in late February and early March, which covered public property but not private land owners. The state has appealed that decision.

Overall during the April weekend, statewide damage reports showed at least 25,923 power outages, 389 lost or damaged homes, 45 affected businesses, 64 destroyed or damaged roads, four compromised bridges, four non-profit utilities, 21 injuries, and one fatality.

Williams said state and federal emergency review teams will be back in the city and county later this summer to continue assessing claims and likely will begin outlining individual assistance at that time.

It likely will be months before the city or county see any reimbursement for their expenses, he added. The same goes for damages from the late February flooding, which also washed out four small drainage culverts in the county and caused unprecedented flooding in the communities along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in eastern Clay County.

“It will come, it just will take awhile to go through all the processes,” he explained.

According to FEMA, assistance can Include:

— Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures taken to save lives and protect property and public health.  Emergency protective measures assistance is available to state and eligible and local governments on a cost-sharing basis.

— Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for repairing or replacing damaged public facilities, such as roads, bridges, utilities, buildings, schools, recreational areas, and similar publicly owned property, as well as certain private non-profit organizations engaged in community service activities.

— Payment of not more than 75 percent of the approved costs for hazard mitigation projects undertaken by state and local governments to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural or technological disasters.
Clay County has joined others in the state in requesting a disaster declaration for April 18, as well, again because of significant flooding in the county.

Across the state, the National Weather Service identified 40 tornadoes that day.