JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and the state’s congressional delegation are asking President Barack Obama for a federal disaster declaration for tornado-ravaged areas of the Magnolia State.
Bryant is requesting a federal disaster declaration for Itawamba, Lee, Lowndes, Madison, Rankin, Wayne, and Winston counties plus the cities of Tupelo and Brandon as well as hazard mitigation statewide.
Bryant’s request was submitted Tuesday while the congressional delegation’s letter was sent to the White House on Wednesday.
State emergency management director Robert Latham says his office and leaders from the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be out Wednesday assessing damage to support the disaster declaration request.
A dozen tornadoes struck central and north Mississippi on Monday. Twelve deaths have been reported.
Cleanup efforts are underway across the state.
Bryant, in his letter, is asking the president for an expedited major disaster declaration because teams from local and federal emergency management agencies have not had enough time to complete comprehensive damage assessment in affected areas.
“The state of Mississippi is determined to recover from the damage and destruction caused by these storms and tornadoes. The state is prepared to expend funds in response to this disaster, but without the assistance of the federal government we will be unable to adequately recover from these devastating storms,” Bryant said in the letter.
Bryant spokeswoman Nicole Webb said once those assessments are complete, the damage figures reflected in the governor’s letter could be adjusted. If a declaration is in fact granted, additional counties can be added if damage figures qualify them, she said.
Here is the full text of the delegation’s letter:
Dear President Obama:
In the wake of devastating weather events across the Southeastern United States this past Monday, we are writing to request your full consideration of Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant’s request for a federal disaster declaration for Itawamba, Lee, Lowndes, Madison, Rankin, Wayne, and Winston Counties as well as hazard mitigation statewide.
We understand that the State of Mississippi and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) jointly continue to assess the damage across the state. Should Governor Bryant request federal disaster declarations for other counties, we are hopeful you will also give these requests your full consideration.
We have been encouraged by the efforts of FEMA to deploy rapidly to Mississippi to assist state and local officials in estimating the severity of the initial damage caused by a series of at least 14 tornado touchdowns across our state, one rated as devastating as EF-4. Citizens have lost loved ones, homes, and their livelihoods. Much of this destruction has occurred in parts of our state that have been particularly affected by our nation’s current economic situation. Many of these counties also have poverty levels that are more than double the national average.
We know from our ongoing recovery in Mississippi from the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Isaac as well as destructive tornados in Smithville in 2011 and Hattiesburg area in 2013, that significant resources and cooperation are necessary to recover fully from natural disasters as quickly as possible. We stand ready to face this new challenge by supporting the local communities, the State, and your administration as we work together to rebuild and renew areas destroyed by this major storm.
Thank you for your consideration of this request. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you need further assistance in this effort.