Eagle Lake couple faces third rejection for aid despite flood destroying their home


A couple in eagle lake who lost their entire home to the Delta Backwater Flood are searching for answers after being denied FEMA aid for the third time.

As they begin their third appeal 12 News Alex Love spoke to the couple at their demolished property with what they’re up against

When applying for individual aid from FEMA the keys to finding out if you qualify to revolve around dates of the damage and proof it’s your permanent residency. Which is where these two find themselves stuck as they sit practically homeless.

Since 2011 Cranford Upton has been living his retirement years off Eagle Lake where he purchased a home off Sea Island Dr. Now all that remains is an empty lot of debris and concrete.

Upton’s former retirement home demolished after the 2019 backwater flood.

“It destroyed everything,” Upton said. “Everything I had personal items and everything.”

“All we have left is the 22-foot travel trailer that we use for recreation which is now our full-time home,” Upton’s girlfriend Rondi Murphy said.

With most of their belongings washed away and the remains of the home forced to be torn down, Upton and Murphy raced to the FEMA Disaster Relief Center in Vicksburg to apply for help.

“They told us they would send out an inspector, so on Oct. 1st we received our first letter that said we were denied,” Murphy continued. “Because he couldn’t prove ownership of the house.”

Upton and Murphy immediately responded showing the deed to the home in Upton’s name and mailing history with his taxes coming to the address to prove residency but still received a second rejection.

“It’s just a disaster for everybody up here,” Upton told us. “We lost our homes and lives more or less. We don’t know what to do if they keep denying us, right now I’m in a holding pattern. They won’t tell me what they can do or will do.”

The FEMA disaster relief center set up at the Vicksburg Mall.

“Sometimes that letter will say you’re ineligible, but what it really means is you may have to provide some additional information,” Cheria Brown of FEMA explained. “It means your application may be incomplete, may mean you forgot to sign it, it might mean that you didn’t provide some insurance documentation if you have insurance.”

Right as we were recording, the third letter from FEMA arrived in the mail denying Upton and murphy this time for the flood damage not happening in the time frame (Feb. 22nd-March 29th) this disaster declaration was declared for, which could mean bad news for many others impacted in the Delta.

“The disaster dates only go through March,” Murphy stated. “And the water didn’t actually come into our residents until May 22nd. We went to bed with water in the living room and woke up with water in the bedroom.”

“If you don’t understand something please come over to the disaster recovery center,” Brown said. “Because that’s why they’re here till 6:00 P.M. daily Monday through Friday.”

FEMA also told us the state of Mississippi is negotiating an extension on the original disaster declaration time frame to help those flooded out of their homes after March. They also say never assume your application or appeal will be denied because your neighbors were.

The final day those affected in the natural disaster declared counties because of the storms, tornadoes, and floods between February 22nd and March 29th can apply for individual aid is November 19th.

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