Nonprofits provide immediate assistance to communities hit by Sunday's storms

Danny McArthur, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo
·3 min read

May 4—TUPELO — Disaster response agencies went to work immediately helping hard-hit communities in the aftermath of Sunday's tornadic storms.

Eight Days of Hope, a local faith-based organization that serves those in need after natural disasters, was in the hardest hit areas of Tupelo on Monday afternoon at 1 p.m., planning their response efforts immediately in the hours following the initial storm. Volunteers with the organization helped clean debris, removed trees and stepped in where needed alongside Elvis Presley Drive in Tupelo and affected areas in Pontotoc.

Chandler Gurley, EDOH executive assistant of operations, said the damage he's seen has been major, but not widespread.

"It definitely could have been much worse, but for the people that were affected, it's a big deal to them," Gurley said. "We're just trying to do the best we can to love on our community and just use the equipment and the gifts God's given us just help those right now who can't help themselves."

EDOH will lead local volunteers all week to serve affected areas. Those 18 years old and up who are willing to volunteer the assist with clean-up efforts are asked to visit 142 Kings Hwy in Pontotoc a 7 a.m. through Friday.

Anyone requiring assistance can email EDOH at rapidresponse@eightdaysofhope.com or call 662-255-7565.

The North Mississippi chapter of the American Red Cross had its disaster assessment team in the field yesterday, primarily assessing damage in Lee and Pontotoc counties. The disaster assessment allows the Red Cross to identify the extent of damage, where it is located, and offer a place for displaced residents to stay if needed.

As of Tuesday morning, no one required sheltering assistance.

"Fortunately, it really seems in our area, while there are a few cases of some major damage in terms of homes ... the damage that is major or destroyed is not widespread," said North Mississippi chapter director KC Grist. "We went out and spoke to the people if they were around and got a feel for how they were doing. We always want to be sure people are doing OK."

The Red Cross works with the Emergency Management Agencies of each county before deploying. A team of a dozen or so volunteers were dispatched immediately following Sunday's storms. Others worked virtually.

According to Grist, Red Cross representatives spoke with officials in Calhoun City, which received the brunt of the storm's damage, on Monday, and planned to finish assessment by visiting Calhoun County in the coming days, depending on weather conditions.

Disaster workers with the American Red Cross of Alabama and Mississippi will be in the affected counties of Calhoun, Carroll, Hinds, Lee, Pontotoc, Rankin and Yazoo this week, according to a press release from the American Red Cross Alabama and Mississippi Region.

While there is no final estimate of the total amount of damage, according to a Tuesday morning briefing, the Red Cross identified approximately 10 to 12 homes that require assistance with major damage across the state, Grist said.

With more weather coming in, Red Cross is encouraging families to be prepared.

"The other night, we didn't have a lot of warning," Grist said. "Your best chance of survival is that you're able to take care of yourself if something like this happens."

danny.mcarthur@djournal.com