October 21, 2020

All Mississippians should pull together and help after tornadoes

The threat of tornadoes is one we know all too well in Northeast Mississippi.

In fact, if it feels like such storms have become more common lately, they actually have. According to research from Northern Illinois University, tornadoes have been occurring more often in the Southeastern U.S. in recent years than in the part of the Great Plains that has been known as “Tornado Alley,” as reported by the Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser.

The volatility has created an ethos of having to be constantly ready for severe weather, especially during this time of year. That means having a plan, knowing where to find safe rooms and being flexible to change plans rapidly when storms strike. The continual risk has also established a culture in which residents are accustomed to quickly springing into action when neighbors are struck.

This year has been no different, and there are many Northeast Mississippians now in need of our help as a result of numerous severe weather outbreaks, including significant tornado damage in both Columbus and Hamilton.

Columbus was hit by an EF-3 tornado on Feb. 23 that resulted in one fatality and 19 injuries. With an estimated maximum wind speed of 137 miles-per-hour, the twister damaged 275 homes, 38 businesses and nine public buildings.

Then on April 13, a rapidly developing EF-2 tornado hit Hamilton in the middle of the night. It also resulted in a fatality and 19 injuries, in addition to damaging or destroying more than 145 homes. Roy Ratliff, 95, died after a tree fell on him while he was in bed.

According to the National Weather Service, the Hamilton tornado was on the ground for 11.3 miles from 11:06 to 11:23 p.m., and its estimated peak winds were 130 miles per hour. A second EF-1 tornado formed west of Greenwood Springs and tracked to near the Itawamba County line.

And while Northeast Mississippi was largely spared during another line of storms last Thursday, there were reports of homes damaged in Chickasaw, Lowndes, Webster and Oktibbeha counties, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Plus, there have been multiple instances of flooding that have occurred throughout the region during our wet winter.

In total, it means many of our neighbors need our help. And there are many ways in which you can lend a helping hand.

In Monroe County, Aberdeen, Amory and Nettleton’s City Halls are accepting relief donations for Hamilton, including non-perishable food, canned goods, bottled water and cleaning supplies. Ampot Federal Credit Union, located at 40481 Old Hwy 45 in Hamilton, is also taking monetary donations for Hamilton tornado relief. And anyone wishing to volunteer can call the hotline number at 662-319-7301 to get directed to the right person.

Meanwhile, you can also direct your efforts through relief organizations such as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Tupelo-based ministry Eight Days of Hope, which have all been on the ground aiding victims throughout the region.

Let’s all pitch in and help our neighbors as they rebuild.

This editorial was originally published in The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo.