Petal to receive MEMA assistance; Hattiesburg waiting

By BETH BUNCH AND HASKEL BURNS,

The city of Petal will be receiving some help from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency after recent flooding issues, as MEMA will reimburse the city for most of the $200,000 in estimated cost of repairs necessitated after Winter Storm Eboni brought massive rainfall to the area late last month.

During last week’s meeting of the Petal Board of Aldermen, Mayor Hal Marx said most of that cost is expected to come from the replacement of pipes running under Old Richton Road between Fairchild Drive and Green’s Creek Baptist Church.

“There will be, of course, some costs that the city has to pay, but it won’t be 100 percent – it’ll be about 10 or 12 percent,” he said. “(Those pipes) are going to have to be dug up and replaced.

“The drainage pipe under the road has been undermined; the pipe is not solid anymore, and there is some blockage and some damage to that.”

A temporary fix is now in place and the road re-opened on Tuesday.  Planning will now be put in place for a permanent solution, which will require shutting down the road again.

Marx said a culvert on Springfield Road in the area of ASH Millworks also has been undermined, and the road is also dipping and collapsing at its edge.

“We barricaded that particular lane in that area,” he said. “The rest of the road seems to be safe enough to drive over right now, but we’re going to have to dig that culvert up and replace it with a box culvert. That will also require closing the road temporarily when we get ready to do that.”

Each repair project is estimated at approximately $100,000.

“So we should we reimbursed for that, but there will be some cost we have to do,” Marx said. “We did have some water get into the senior center – I don’t think it was a whole lot – and some water got into the 3D School, which we own.

“We also had some normal erosion problems with ditches, where the water kind of eroded the sides a little bit and we had to go shore it up. So that’s looking like our part of it, as far as that goes.”

According to the National Weather Service in Jackson, Hattiesburg recorded 7.5 inches of rain over a 24-hour period during the early stages of the flooding, while people around the area reported in excess of 10 inches in their backyard rain gauges. The rain began about 1 p.m. Dec. 27 and continued throughout the next morning.

Three bodies of water in Forrest County – the Leaf River, the Bouie River and Black Creek – all crested over that weekend.

Glen Moore, director of the Forrest County Emergency Agency, recently told members of Hattiesburg City Council and the Forrest County Board of Supervisors there are two types of federal assistance available: Individual Assistance, which can help residents with repair and temporary housing, and Public Assistance, which provides grants to state and local governments to help recover from disasters.

“If we get around 100 with major damage, that’s when we ask (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to declare a federal declaration through the president,” he said. “To be honest with you, I do not think those numbers are there. It does not look like we have the numbers for federal assistance. So, what we did was reach out to the local faith-based organizations and charitable organizations through R3SM and gave them all the damage assessments that we have done.”

In Forrest County, Moore said they received notification of 145 homes with damage. Officials reported 27 homes with major damage, 60 with minor damage and 59 that were classified as affected. Within Petal, six homes had major damage, 46 with minor and 31 were affected.

Within Hattiesburg city limits, Moore’s staff reported two homes with major damage, nine with minor damage and 12 that were classified as affected. No homes were destroyed.

Moore said at this point, the possibility of Public Assistance is much more likely than Individual Assistance.

“The county’s threshold is for $285,00 worth of damage, and I think we’re going to have that,” he said. “The city of Petal almost, just by themselves, had enough damage to meet that threshold.

“It’s a two-step process – the county has to meet that threshold, which I think we’ll do that, and the state has to meet a threshold of $4.5 million. It’s looking like the state is going to meet their threshold, so hopefully once we get all the numbers from the state, the state will be asking for a presidential declaration on the Public Assistance from the government side.”

Moore said while they were notified by a number of residents who suffered damage, some of the owners of the houses they came upon while out in the field, had not made damage calls.

“We made our best effort to get to everybody that called, but there were some who never called for an assessment,” he said.

Hattiesburg and Forrest County officials are urging residents who sustained damage to their home or business to call (601) 544-5911 to make a report, which will allow Forrest County emergency staff to compile a complete report to FEMA. While there is no deadline, Moore said he would like to have assessments done by the end of the week for all those affected. 

Moore said he had spoken with MEMA Director Gregory Michel, who said it looked very likely that the state would meet the threshold of $4.5M for assistance. Moore said Wayne County had a couple of million dollars in damage by themselves.

It was also noted that those with homes with flood insurance were automatically thrown out and not counted by FEMA towards the numbers.