Rebuilding Mississippi: COVID-19 stalls flood and storm clean up from Jackson to Pine Belt


JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – We continue our rebuilding Mississippi reports with 12 News Alex Love speaking to the director of Mississippi Emergency Management about the Coronavirus pandemic possibly getting in the way of those caught in the middle of natural disasters. He takes us to those impacted in Jackson then to the Pine Belt. 

Long before a global pandemic hundreds of residents in northeast Jackson were already dealing with their own crisis from the Pearl River flooding. Four months later the recovery is still going on. 

“The pandemic didn’t help at all. It even made it worse,” Janice Lewis of River Glen Court told us.

In February Janice Lewis and her family thought they’d seen it all. The rising Pearl River forced them from their home for six weeks. Then the Coronavirus outbreak left her unemployed.  

“I’m not working at the moment so I’m using the income I have in my savings,” Lewis continued. “And it’s getting hard with that.” 

Eventually their tight budgets forced them back into their torn-up home. 

“The first guy that I hired he came in and hung some sheet rock in the first two rooms which he did not do a good job of,” Lewis said. “And ran off with the money not coming back.”

Low on money and not sure when she’ll work and rebuilding has come to a standstill, adding insult to injury Janice’s daughter lost her graduation ceremony.

“We were looking for a whole big celebration,” Lewis stated. “She was the last one to graduate in the family and now that there will not be a graduation.”

80 miles south of the capitol in Bassfield victims of the Easter Sunday tornado are doing their cleanup while trying to keep COVID-19 from spreading.

“It’s a little difficult because some of the masks you can’t hardly breath in,” Sheila Varnado of Jefferson Davis County said. “When you’re trying to work you can’t keep it on long.”

A month later, a big stretch of graves keys rd. Still sits demolished. Sheila Varnado is using her backyard shed for temporary shelter. 

“I’m just trying to build me one or two little rooms up until I hear from FEMA,” Varnado added. 

Including the COVID-19 pandemic MEMA and the state of Mississippi have declared four state of emergencies in 2020 and the price tag has been heavy.

“We’re at about $22 million worth of damages thus far and that will continue to grow,” Director Gregory Michel said. “But that doesn’t include the other storms we had on the 19th, 22nd, 23rd as well.”

With PPE crucial for those on the frontlines fighting COVID-19 MEMA also has to distribute extra resources taking some focus away from natural disasters. 

“Our inventory levels are close. In some cases, we’re seeing facilities and hospitals running within two to three days of running out of critical needs,” Michel continued. “That’s why we deliver every day.”

If you or someone you know was in the Easter Sunday tornado storms or any other recent severe weather declared a natural disaster by the state but can’t apply for federal aid online or over the phone MEMA has set six natural disaster assistance sights that’s in

  • Clarke County at 642 South Archusa Ave. Quitman, MS.
  •  Jasper County at 37 D West 8th Ave. Bay Springs, MS.
  •  Grenada County at 299 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Grenada, MS.
  •  Lawrence County at 703 Board St. Monticello, MS.
  •  Panola County at 394 Hwy 51 South Batesville, MS.
  •  and Walthall County at 908 Armory Rd. Tylertown, MS.

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