More severe storms predicted for Mississippi

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2009

As residents across the southern half of Mississippi continue to clean up from last week’s tornadoes, disaster officials are bracing for another round of potentially severe storms that could fatten already swollen rivers.

National Weather Service meteorologist Lynn Burse said possible severe thunderstorms could move through Jackson on Tuesday and areas of south Mississippi.

Burse said the storms will be widespread throughout the day. Another front will follow Thursday and a third series of storms are predicted for Sunday, Burse said.

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“It’s been an active period,” she said. “We’re just in a pattern where we don’t have any good, strong high pressure setting up, leaving the door open for these cold fronts to move through one after another.”

Meanwhile, nonprofits and insurers are taking stock of damage caused by storms that spawned six tornadoes last week, causing damage in several counties.

“Right now, we are unloading and restocking and looking at inventory and making sure the volunteers are getting as much rest as possible,” said Mary Hamilton, CEO of the Central Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross.

One person was killed and 30 were injured. Heavy rains have some rivers swollen and flooding has occurred in several southern Mississippi counties.

In Moss Point, school officials said Orange Lake Elementary School remained closed Tuesday because of flooding in the area and residents near Franklin Creek in Jackson County are keeping watch on floodwater.

Donald Langham, director of the Jackson County Emergency Operation Center, warned that residents could experience more high water problems.

County Emergency Management officials toured flooded areas with MEMA representatives Monday and said about 150 homes flooded in east Jackson County, including the Hurley, Helena and Escatawpa areas, and 28 in the St. Martin area of west Jackson County.

Langham said flooding of up to 3 feet had been reported in some areas.

Gov. Haley Barbour said he has asked the U.S. Small Business Administration to assist in assessing damage from last week’s tornado in Simpson County in hopes of making federal loans available to storm victims. The tornado in Simpson and Smith counties damaged or destroyed 60 houses and two churches mostly in and around Magee.

“Last week’s storms and tornadoes left a wide path of destruction, and we are committed to doing everything possible to help citizens in the affected areas recover, including seeking this federal assistance,” Barbour said in a news release. “The SBA loans would provide much needed federal financial assistance to help people rebuild their homes and businesses.”

If the federal government approves them, the low-interest loans would be made available to homeowners and renters to repair damage and replace lost items. Loans also would be available to businesses and nonprofits.

Barbour did not request disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The damage in Simpson County did not meet minimum requirements for federal aid of damage to at least 100 uninsured or underinsured homes, Barbour said.