WLBT-TV Jackson

‘This community is going to come back:’ Federal help arrives in Mississippi

By Brendan Hall

ROLLING FORK, Miss. (WLBT) - Federal help is on the ground in Mississippi after President Biden approved the governor’s emergency declaration Sunday.

The governor, along with federal and state leaders, toured Rolling Fork Sunday morning, which is one of the areas that was hit hardest by Friday’s deadly storm.

“What we’ve seen over the last 36 hours in Mississippi, on one hand, has been heartbreaking. But on the other hand, it has been inspiring and gives me great reason for optimism and, quite frankly, makes me damn proud to be a Mississippian because Mississippians have done what Mississippians do. In times of tragedy, they stand up, and they show up,” Governor Tate Reeves said.

Standing with the governor were other state leaders, federal partners, and the mayor of the hard-hit community of Rolling Fork.

“I’m not only just the mayor of this community, but I’ve lost personal friends. I’m also the local funeral director,” Mayor Eldridge Walker said. “I’m having to meet my families, those who have lost loved ones, and help them make it through this traumatic time.”

Federal partners say they’re in the Magnolia State for the long-haul and, through the major disaster declaration, will provide individual assistance and debris removal for Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe, and Sharkey counties.

“When I spoke with the president [Saturday] and gave him an update, he was very clear to me: make sure the entire federal family does whatever they can to support these communities, and that’s what we’re here to do,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said.

Sunday, Senator Roger Wicker, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, and Representative Bennie Thompson all stood as one, making promises of their own to those trying to figure out where to go from here.

“We’re about to spend some local and state money on this,” Sen. Wicker said. “We’re going to do so in coordination with one of the best state emergency management teams in the country. We’re good because we have experience.”

“I’ve got news for you: this community is going to come back. This community is going to come back strong. We are here to help you,” Sen. Hyde-Smith said.

“It’s your federal government that will backfill the need in this community. We don’t want anyone who is impacted to make a decision to leave because they didn’t get made whole again,” Rep. Thompson said.

Administrator Criswell said crews are on the ground assessing other counties to see if any others need to be added to this disaster declaration.