By Josh Troy
The Clarksdale Board of Mayor and Commissioners voted unanimously to authorize sending city personnel and equipment to communities impacted by the storms and tornadoes on Friday. The vote came during a special meeting Sunday morning. Rolling Fork suffered the most damage, but the storms also hit other areas throughout central Mississippi.
Mayor Chuck Espy announced monetary donations for people in central Mississippi can be brought to city hall, and items can be dropped off at the south annex of the Clarksdale Civic Auditorium. Espy appointed Ward 1 Commissioner Bo Plunk as the point of contact to ensure the community knows the logistical items central Mississippi residents need. Plunk said many people have already donated diapers.
“What we need to do now is show a sign of solidarity to make sure that the other cities know without a shadow of a doubt that the City of Clarksdale, we are with you,” Espy said. “No matter what happens in the state, when one of our brothers and sisters bleed and lose a home and business, the City of Clarksdale grieves with you. But not only are we going to say we are here with you, we are going to show our support.” Espy offered prayers for everyone who suffered damage, lost a loved one, and feels there is nowhere to turn.
“Be lenient to the City of Clarksdale during these times as we help our brothers and sisters that are in need because we never know when our day will come,” he said. “And so we have to make sure that we help our other people.” With all the damage in central Mississippi, Espy said the process will continue until 2024.
Clarksdale Fire Department Training Chief Hunter Rybolt went to Rolling Fork on Saturday and provided a report. Rybolt said the Clarksdale and Coahoma County fire departments and Coahoma County Sheriff’s Office were all on the scene, ready to assist. He said approximately 80% of the structures in Rolling Fork could not be occupied. Rolling Fork’s 9-1-1 structure is currently not working, “They’re embedding their system, I believe into Vicksburg’s system,” Rybolt said.
Rybolt said the Armory shelter in Rolling Fork is being used. He added that Randy Murray from Pafford EMS informed him that approximately 25 individuals are in the Armory shelter. Rybolt also said central Mississippi residents also occupy Armory shelters in areas such as Belzoni and Leland. Rybolt said Coahoma County Fire Chief Stanley Lynom cooked near the mobile hospital to feed citizens.
Rybolt said he worked with the Mississippi State Task Force team to clear close to 100 structures. “I think the crews that arrived immediately after the incident until daylight did a really exceptional job of rescuing and clearing the victims who were in immediate danger,” Rybolt said.
Rybolt said many residents in Rolling Fork still do not have electricity and will need warm meals throughout the week.
“I think now they’re able to enter the recovery phase, which is difficult because they have no water, no 9-1-1 system at the moment,” he said.
However, Rybolt said crews are still on the ground, and debris is being cleaned up. Police Chief Robbie Linley and Assistant Director of Public Works Craig Amerson said their departments are ready to assist communities with the storms and tornadoes impacted.
“Our prayers go out to everyone,” said Ward 2 Commissioner Ken Murphey. “It’s just a sad situation.” “Our thoughts go out to those areas impacted by the tornadoes,” agreed Ward 4 Commissioner Ed Seals. “Please keep in mind these people need the assistance today. In the future, it might be Clarksdale.”
Community Advocate Milton Gardner has already gotten to work on assisting central Mississippi. Gardner said he went around and spoke to businesses about providing donations to those in need. Our Grandma’s House of Pancakes already gave a $30 donation, said Gardner. Gardner said he brought the donation to Fire Chief Rocky Nabors.
While there are questions about what logistical items families may need, Gardner said monetary donations would cover anything. “One thing we know they need is money,” he said. “Money is the answer to all things.”
Cutline: Mayor Chuck Espy, left, makes a point during Sunday’s meeting as Ward 2 Commissioner Ken Murphey looks on.