National Rural Water Association

2915 S. 13th Street

Duncan, OK 73533

580-252-0629   FAX 580-255-4476

Contact:  Chris Wilson,

May 13, 2011
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MsRWA responds after tornados


Courtesy of the Mississippi Rural Water Association

RAYMOND, Miss. – Most people watched on the television in awe of the devastation across the south on April 27, 2011, but trust us when we say rural counties need help and they still do.  More than 35 Mississippians were killed, 2,527 homes were severely damaged, 993 homes were completely destroyed, and the damage assessments are still ongoing.  The hardest hit counties in Mississippi were Monroe, Tishomingo and Webster. 
           In Monroe County, a small rural town was wiped out in an instant.  An EF5 tornado ripped through the rural town of Smithville, MS.  With a town population of about 900 people, the tornado came through with estimated winds of 205 mph.  Twenty-seven people were killed, and around forty injured. The Town of Smithville was in ruins. In one part of town, not a structure was left standing as far as the eye could see.  The rural town has no businesses, no avenue of commerce, and no schools.  Pieces of tin were wrapped high around the legs of a blue water tower.  The Piggly Wiggly grocery store was gutted, with wires and insulation dangling from the ceiling.  Houses, the post office and the police station were completely destroyed.  Neighborhoods resembled the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.
          Damage assessments have determined that 150 houses, 14 businesses and 2 churches were destroyed by the tornado in Smithville. These houses were very well-built, but the storm was violent enough that all appliances and plumbing fixtures in the damage path were "shredded or missing."
         The Town of Smithville was in dire need of any assistance.  MsRWA assisted the Town of Smithville by providing generators.  Our crew of expert staff helped restore power to their water and sewer plants.  We located water lines and valves.  We repaired leaks, pulled water samples, inspected elevated tanks, smoke tested and capped off sewer lines.  This small community was the hardest hit during this recent outbreak.  It will take years for this community to rebuild.
         In Tishomingo County hundreds of trees were down, many across power lines that caused power outages.  The Town of Belmont was out of power.  Two businesses were completely destroyed, and the town’s maintenance yard suffered severe damage. About 30 homes suffered major damage, and the high school baseball field was destroyed with trees down all across it.  We assisted the Town of Belmont by providing generators, locating water lines and valves.  The Town of Belmont water system is now in stable condition.
         In Webster County reports came in of severe damage along Hwy. 82, including the Cumberland area where East Webster High School suffered significant damage.  Homes damaged, two deaths and 15 injuries were reported in Webster County.  We assisted the Cumberland Water Association by providing generators, locating water lines and helping to repair water leaks.  Cumberland Water Association is now in stable condition.
         While there are too many counties to list with damage the following are some that MsRWA assisted after the disaster.
         In Carroll County, there were damaged homes and some roads were closed due to debris in the road.  We contacted Pelucia Rural Water Association but there was no immediate need at that time.
         In Choctaw County, there were damaged homes, trees down, power outages, one death and three injuries.  We assisted Simpson Water Association with repairing a water line that was damaged.  The water line was crossing a creek.  We also repaired other water leaks.  The system is now up and running.
          In Holmes and Chickasaw County, there was storm damage reported. We contacted the Town of Durant and East Chickasaw Water Association but there was no immediate need at that time.
         In Kemper County, the Northwest Kemper Water Association lost their new $2 Million dollar treatment plant.  MsRWA contacted the system but they were up and running off other plants.
         In Oktibbeha County, the storms left Starkville and the Mississippi State University campus without power. Trees and debris were down on the TVA transmission system leaving many without power.  MsRWA assisted Adaton Water Association by providing a generator.  The system is now in stable condition.
         There was tornado and storm damage as far south as Greene County.  Our staff in south MS assisted the Town of Leaksville by providing three generators.  We helped repair water leaks.  The Town of Leaksville is now in stable condition.
         Ms Rural Water Association also helped Alabama Rural Water Association by delivering generators and getting the Town of Bear Creek, AL up and running.
         While most people waited to see if their own town or community was going to be the next victim of these devastating unpredictable tornadoes, Mississippi Rural Water Association went into “Help” mode.  We went to work immediately to help by providing generators to restore power so systems could provide their customers with at least the basic necessity in life “water”.  MsRWA knows the importance of “water”. 
          There were thousands of cities, rural communities, neighborhoods, and people who were worried about food and water.  We aren't talking about people in a 3rd world country here - we are talking about people in the USA in 2011.  MsRWA was already in the process of contacting system operators and mangers across the devastated areas to address the needs and severity of each system before the threat was over. 
Cities and rural systems from around MS started contacting MsRWA wanting to know how they could help. We made calls to water systems asking for assistance to help provide and transport generators for those in need.  Generators were borrowed from water systems throughout the state. 
          During these times of natural disasters MsRWA, MEMA, power companies operators, mayors , police officers, firemen and volunteers from across this great state go to work immediately in order to help restore power and water to our communities, towns and neighborhoods.   
         These recovery efforts begin in earnest and immediately in most areas, but the devastation caused by these tornadoes will require years of support for these communities to rebuild.  Recovery after such a catastrophe will not be easy, given the magnitude of damage across the state of MS, but it is underway.
         Our staff either contacted or visited most of the systems that may have been affected by the devastating tornadoes.  Our staff is highly-trained in all types of recovery efforts.  Almost all of them have worked during a natural disaster of some kind from the hurricanes, floods, ice storms, pipeline explosions and tornadoes.  They are devoted to helping others during natural disasters in Mississippi and surrounding states. 

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