March 12, 2019 10:21:34 AM
Three weeks after an EF-3 tornado swept through Columbus, those most affected by the disaster are still being told them must be patient.
Short-term help, mostly basic necessities -- food, clothing, even lodging -- are readily available. But for those who are eager to have some semblance of their normal lives, there is no fixed timetable on when that might happen.
Emergency funding from the federal government, which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is still probably weeks away. In the interim, "patience" is the operative word.
During a Monday town hall meeting at the Columbus Municipal Complex, more than 100 residents turned out. Their frustration was both palpable and understandable. Even three weeks removed from the tornado, the answers to some questions remain ambiguous. At this stage in the process, there is still much left to determine. While local entities and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) have finished their damage assessments for the tornado, the federal dollars needed for recovery won't be triggered until a federal emergency from the President is declared. The first FEMA officials will begin doing their own assessments Wednesday in anticipation of that declaration.
But even once a declaration has been issued, the process for getting federal aid to individual residents won't be completed overnight.
Of course, knowing all this does nothing to diminish the anxiety of those whose homes have been destroyed or badly damaged. It's easy for someone not affected by the storm to urge patience. It's quite another matter when it's your home, your business, your way of life that has been so profoundly affected.
In the meantime, we urge those who have suffered loss to stay informed. If you have questions, you have every right to be heard. A call to the United Way of Lowndes County (328-0943) is a good place to start. If they can't help you, they'll likely know who can.
For those who were spared from the devastation, hold your neighbors in your hearts. Continue to help where you can, to support them and encourage them. If you want to volunteer, call the United Way's volunteer center at 370-8600, 370-8602 or 370-8603.
It's going to be a long recovery and people are going to need more than patience. They'll need kindness, generosity, understanding.
For our community, it's a shared responsibility.
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