Last week’s storm in Kosciusko and the surrounding area damaged structures, downed trees, and caused power outages across the city. City and county crews worked alongside MDOT to clear trees blocking roads and downed power lines. No injuries have been reported at this time.
According to Attala County Emergency Manager Danny Townsend, damage from the storm is scattered sporadically across the county, but the area hit hardest was the west side of Kosciusko, extending outside of the city limits.
Kosciusko Mayor Tim Kyle said the city is doing it’s best to clear debris and asks for the patience of residents.
“We hope to get all the debris off our streets and quickly as we can,” said Kyle. “Don’t give up on us.”
Star-Herald offices move to temporary city hall facility
The storm affected The Star-Herald’s office building, owned by the city of Kosciusko, which bought it to use as part of The Strand Theater redevelopment project.
Townsend said a drone view showed a large hole in the Strand Theater’s roof, from which debris flipped over and caused bricks to come off the back of the buildings. The Star-Herald’s roof was punctured by a large wooden roof panel from the theater (see photo) and several newspaper offices and their contents were damaged by rain that poured into the building during the storm.
On Sunday, Kyle informed the newspaper that, although the roof had been patched, there is possible structural damage to the building’s front wall, making it potentially unsafe for staff to work inside. The newspaper already had plans to relocate to the former Parker Shoe building across the square, but that facility is not yet ready for occupancy.
“We ask that everyone stay clear of those buildings until we are sure they are secure,” he said.
In the interim, a newspaper office will be set up in the back of city hall. Those needing to communicate with newspaper staff are asked to do so by email if possible. If you do not know the email address of the appropriate staff member, use firstname.lastname@example.org and your email will be directed to the appropriate person. Messages left on the newspaper’s voicemail system will be retrieved and responded to regularly.
While most staff will work remotely, limited staff will be available in the temporary location during regular business hours.
“It’s an unfortunate situation, but we’re a resilient operation. We, of course, will continue to cover public meetings and visit with our advertising partners. Most of our team will work remotely, and despite these challenges, we will continue to put out the newspaper during this transition until we move into our new permanent offices,” said Editor and Publisher Karen Fioretti. “We appreciate the city, as our landlord, working with us to ensure our staff is safe and has a base of operations from which to continue serving our community.”
What was that?
There was speculation over whether the damage was caused by a tornado, straight line winds, or a microburst — a localized column of sinking air within a thunderstorm that is usually less than or equal to 2.5 miles in diameter. According to the National Weather Service, a wet microburst is accompanied by significant precipitation and is common in the Southeast during summer months. Townsend said he was in contact with the National Weather Service and they intended to send a crew to determine the storm’s cause.
Emergency disaster funding for the county depends on the current assessment being done. The official assessment will determine if additional relief can be provided under the Stafford Act of 1988. The Stafford Act authorizes the delivery of federal technical, financial, logistical, and other assistance to states and localities during declared major disasters or emergencies. According to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, major disasters are defined as any natural catastrophe or fire, flood, or explosion, regardless of cause, which is of sufficient severity to warrant assistance under the act to alleviate the damage, loss, or hardship caused by the event. Emergencies are defined as any event for which federal assistance is needed to supplement state or local efforts to save lives, protect public health and safety, protect property, or avert the threat of a catastrophe.
Townsend said that if other counties assist in the effort, it will help numbers, but if Attala County must go at it alone, they will be determined to meet the threshold set by the Stafford Act.
There are two types of assistance under the Stafford Act—individual and public assistance. Townsend said public assistance covers debris cleanup for public buildings like city hall, police stations, or county or city-owned property. Individual assistance covers people’s homes and properties.
If an Attala County resident needs to report damage outside of the main damage area, call the Attala County Fire Department at (662) 289-9163. Leave your name, phone number, and address. A crew will come examine the damage and include it in the damage assessment.
“We’re going to try to cover everything we can see from the street,” said Townsend. “If someone’s got damage on the backside of their house that we might not see from the street, let us know and we'll get out there and take a look at it.”
According to the final report, the storm was not a tornado, but rather straight line and down burst winds. Fifteen homes and eight mobile homes were affected. There was no damage to any apartment units. Two business buildings were destroyed along with a farm building. No public roads or bridges were affected. Two publicly owned buildings had major damage and three had minor damage.
Townsend remains in contact with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and is waiting to hear if the county is eligible for emergency disaster funding.