We must prepare for the next disaster
On April 24 Yazoo County experienced an EF-4 tornado. It was 149.25 miles long, 1.25 miles wide and is the widest on record today.
Yazoo City and County is in the recovery phase now. Citizens affected by the devastating tornado are picking up the pieces and getting their lives back together with the help of FEMA, MEMA, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other organizations.
An after action report has been prepared by Emergency Response Agency departments heads determining where shortfalls were during the response. There were some problems encountered that could be expected with a disaster of this magnitude. My take on the response as Yazoo County’s emergency management director was that it was a learning experience and wake up call. We can take what we learned from this disaster to prepare for the next. The only time we fail is when we don’t recognize a problem and then don’t try to fix it.
Overall, the response went very well according to MEMA and the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security. These two agency’s responses were nothing short of excellent. They rapidly deployed personnel and resources to the scene to ensure communications, search and rescue efforts and public information. They remained on the scene for several days maintaining those types of services.
Other agencies and organizations providing aid were the American Red Cross, state department of health, MS 811, Miss. Bureau of Narcotics, MS Commission of Volunteer Services, Corps of Engineers, State Fire Marshall’s office, Mississippi Department of Public Safety, God’s Pit Crew, Lutheran Episcopal Services, Church of Christ, department of environmental quality and the National Weather Service. A special thanks goes to the GIS Department of Jackson State MS e-Center led Dr. Gordon Skelton, who provided the tornado track data; and all the local churches who helped. We would also like to say thank you to several of the state’s county emergency management directors who came to the aid of Yazoo County. Leake, Lincoln, Madison, Scott, Jones, Tunica, Leflore, Washington, Pike and Humphreys counties worked to support the incident management process until we could stand alone. Some of them had experienced a tornado of this magnitude before and brought with them a wealth of knowledge.
But most of all, thanks go to Gov. Haley Barbour and the First Lady. They came, they cried, and they made sure we got help.
The Yazoo Board of Supervisors worked faithfully in their districts providing water and passing out tarps to the tornado victims. They truly made it personal when the devastating tornado hit home.
Now that the tornado has passed and we strive to get back to normal, we need to prepare in the event we experience another disaster. It may not be an EF-4 tornado next time. It may be an ice storm or flooding event. No matter, we need to take charge of how the next disaster will affect us by preparing. Purchase weather radios so an approaching severe weather event won’t be a surprise. Stock non-perishable food items, flash light and batteries. Put aside emergency cash. Develop an emergency plan and discuss it with your family.
If you need assistance with developing a plan, call the Yazoo County Emergency Management office at 746-1533.
Remember, being disaster prepared can save your life.