By Josh Troy
Last week’s ice storm that caused homes to be without power and water for several days led to the Coahoma County Board of Supervisors discussing a contingency plan for similar events in the future.
The Supervisors initially declared the state of emergency three days after the ice storm at a special meeting Friday and extended it to 30 days at the regular meeting Monday. They talked about ideas on how to handle other potential emergencies.
District 3 Supervisor Derrell Washington proposed allowing Jonestown residents to go to the elementary school in the community if the weather causes them to lose power and water again. Washington’s district covers the Jonestown area.
“The ice storm we just had, it kind of opened my eyes to something that I’ve said before. We are experiencing more and more frequent storms,” he said. “Thank God the ice storm wasn’t worse than it was.”
Washington said he reached out to Coahoma County School District Superintendent Dr. Virginia Young to discuss his idea of residents going to Jonestown Elementary School in a future emergency, noting Jonestown was without power for almost three days. He added the school has heat, a cooling station, gym, and cafeteria.
“Jonestown doesn’t have a building (other than Jonestown Elementary School) big enough to hold people in a time of a disaster if something happens and they lose lights for a certain period of time,” Washington said. “Neither does Friars Point or Lyon.”
Washington also proposed buying a generator for the school to use during a power outage.
“I just think we can’t keep getting caught with our pants down when these storms hit, and we don’t have a plan in place,” he said.
Washington and Young and Coahoma County School District Board members were open to the idea of allowing residents to go to the elementary school when they do not have power and water.
Board President Johnny Newson, who represents District 4, took Washington’s ideas a step further.
“I agree with you 100%,” said Newson to Washington. “But, also, in addition to that, I think we need to have even more of a comprehensive contingency plan.”
Newson said a plan for everyone to follow should be in writing.
“I remember one time we had to evacuate Clarksdale because a chemical plant was on fire,” he said.
“There’s several contingency plans we need to look at, such as one you mentioned with the lights being out.”
Newson said there is a tendency to look at contingency plans after something happens.
Washington said Clarksdale residents have places to go in emergencies, but Coahoma County residents in smaller communities do not.
“The people in the city got a place to go,” he said. “They got the Expo. They got the city auditorium. Some even got CCC (Coahoma Community College), if necessary, but it’s the people in the small communities like Jonestown, Friars Point, Lyon, Lula – it’s nothing out there for them.”
Washington said the Sheriff’s Department has many responsibilities during an emergency, and there should be a rescue plan where the citizens know what to do.
“It’s something that Emergency Management can’t do alone, the Sheriff’s Department can’t do alone,” he said. “It’s going to have to be everybody. You’ve got to add even the constituents from these communities, and you’ve got to get them involved.”