CHICKASAW COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI)- Kirkham Dendy remembers that terrifying afternoon more than two years ago when his whole world changed.
“I knew the clouds looked funny. When I was putting my horses up I looked and coming out of the west was a HUGE black cloud. I saw my neighbors barn disappear right before my eyes, then I saw my neighbors house disappear. About the time we got into the house it hit. When we walked out, all that was left was the room we were in,” said Dendy.
Dendy lost nearly everything. His home, his barn and some of his equipment. He says he wouldn’t have made it if his community hadn’t pitched in.
“The clean up efforts were tremendous. We had help from everybody,” said Dendy.
The 2 twisters crossed 31 miles, killing 3 people and destroying nearly 200 homes. Chickasaw County board members struggled with how to manage the clean up. But instead of reaching out to outside companies, officials asked nearby communities for assistance.
“With the help of other counties surrounding: Lee, Calhoun, Ponotoc and Monroe, our public works department cleaned that up themselves instead of contracting the work out. We had citizens and through the help of our Chickasaw county sheriff’s department and the inmate program, they were able to help clean up property and get that debris to the right of way,” said Emergency Management Director Linda Griffin.
The county also received grants from the State and FEMA. But volunteers made the biggest difference of all.
“We had firefighters from all 8 fire departments participating all across Chickasaw County. Volunteer firefighters save our county a tremendous amount of money each year. We’re fighting fires, responding to emergency calls but also in situations like this tornado they provided invaluable amounts of man power and personnel that quite honestly we wouldn’t have been able to afford without them,” said Blankenship.
After witnessing how quickly the community came together in the wake of the storm, Kirkham is not surprised that the county is already debt free.
“Great volunteers, we got some great leadership in our county and our city. Some of these people they are so ell trained and we don’t appreciate them enough,” said Dendy.
After paying neighboring counties for their help, total payments came up to only $530,000. Griffin credits the Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors for managing the clean up efforts wisely.