Monroe Journal

Tornado victims encouraged to apply for FEMA assistance

By Ray Van Dusen

ABERDEEN – Monroe County officials are encouraging residents affected by a tornadic storm front that tore through the county on March 24 to file for FEMA assistance as soon as possible. 

Representatives with the Federal Emergency Management Agency were on-hand during Monday morning's meeting of the Monroe County Board of Supervisors, where they fielded questions about their response to the devastation to homes and businesses throughout the area. 

While deadline to apply for FEMA assistance is May 25, District 1 Supervisor Joseph Richardson asked if people should apply immediately or wait until insurance adjusters arrive.

“If they have homeowners insurance, they need to indicate that on their application and need to get with their insurance company," said Tom Hardy, a FEMA intergovernmental affairs liaison. "If the insurance company says, ‘No, we’re not going to be able to support you,’ they need something from the insurance company to give to FEMA because their application won’t go anywhere until they’ve done that."

The same applies for those interested in Small Business Association loans, Hardy said.

“Even though it’s the Small Business Association, they work with small businesses and individuals who don’t qualify for the FEMA grant. There are people on the fringe of the tornado who think they did okay but later, they could find their roof is leaking so people on the fringe should probably register anyway, even if they feel they don’t have any damage,” Hardy said.

Besides those who had property damage, people who lost food due or had to temporarily relocate because of power outages are also eligible to apply for assistance.

FEMA and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency set up a Disaster Recovery Center at the Monroe County Government Complex, located at 1619 Hwy. 25 in Amory. It is open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 1 until 6 p.m. Sundays.

Additionally, people can sign up by calling (800) 621-3362, visiting or using the FEMA mobile app.

During his input, District 3 Supervisor Rubel West addressed tornado response throughout the county.

“Some things are prioritized," he said. "With volunteer crews, if there was a tree on the house and next door, there are trees in the yard, the triage is going to the tree on the house. Some places in the county, we couldn’t get to because of the routes. They had to get cleared and be safe, so there was a delay on that. The county was trying its best to get everywhere.”

West asked for people in all supervisor districts to be patient with county services as tornado recovery continues.

Dale Pierce of Aberdeen complimented Monroe County Road Manager Daniel Williams and his crews for a quick response to clearing trees from the roads following the tornado. FEMA and county representatives, alike, complimented county emergency management agency director Donna Sanderson and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency state coordinator Tracy Farr for their work, along with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, 911 and county solid waste employees.

West also said while an original estimate for damage to timber was $8 million, he said the actual figure may be 10 times higher.

“In talking to (Monroe County Extension Service Agent) Randall Nevins this morning and some of their people assessing, it’s more like $80 million,” he said, adding Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is aware and will be in communication with the U.S. Department of Agriculture about it.

He said most of the damaged timber can’t go through the sawmills, leaving pulpwood mills as a second option. However, West said mills aren’t taking it now.

“They may have 20 years invested in it, and they’re just out,” he said.

In another matter, supervisors approved county tax assessor Mitzi Presley’s request to set up a point system for damaged homes impacted by the tornado.

“We’ve looked at everything in regard to the structural foundation all the way to the HVAC and things of that nature and give it a point based on whether it was minor destruction, major destruction or destroyed," she said. "We total all that at the end and come up with a percentage and then based on the amount of the year that the property was there without any destruction, we use that percentage and pro-rate it."

Presley’s office has used the same approach following previous major tornadoes that struck Monroe County.

“We do these depreciations and code them for next year, and each one of those properties is looked at again to see what’s been done as far as replacing anything or rebuilding things of that nature,” she said.

It will impact the 2023 assessment, and the affected property will be reviewed again in 2024.

“I know it’s a lot bigger undertaking than (the 2011 Smithville tornado), but if we can do it, I think it will be a little relief to the people out there,” Richardson said.

Additionally, Presley said there is protection for property owners regarding their 2024 homestead exemptions.

“If they’re not totally built back in 2024, we’re allowed to leave that homestead on for that year,” she said.

Presley also asked supervisors to consider a reprint of foldable county maps. She was approached by several volunteers requested maps.

“They’re needed in a time like this, very much so,” she said.

Board members approved resolutions dealing with Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District cleanout projects to clear storm debris from creeks to improve water flow.

The board also authorized Williams to help coordinate burn sites for debris.

County administrator Bob Prisock has been in communication with Three Rivers Planning and Development District regarding a work program for disaster relief.

“Anyone who gets on this work program has got to be unemployed for eight weeks or lost their job due to the storm, and it’s hard to find people,” he said.

In other business, District 4 Supervisor Fulton Ware donated $500 from his rural recreation funds to the Aberdeen Headstart program and $100 to the Toastmasters International conference.