SMITHVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – Most of us will never forget how Smithville was devastated by an EF-5 tornado three years ago. Now city and state leaders, across North Mississippi are leaning on the small town for advice as they recover from their own tornado disaster.
“I’ve been asked a million questions but I need answers as well,” says Louisville Mayor, Will Hill.
Hill traveled to Smithville looking for those answers, as his town prepares to rebuild after last Monday’s tornado. Congressman Alan Nunnelee asked town leaders to share information about disaster recovery.
“Three years ago, the city of Smithville was hit by a horrible tornado and that town has rebuilt. I think it’s important for the local elected officials and all the affected counties from the storm last week to see Smithville. To hear from Mayor Greg Kennedy what he’s learned,” explained Nunnelee, Congressman in District 1.
Smithville has changed dramatically since April 2011. Mayor Greg Kennedy gave a tour of the nearly $4 million, dome school gymnasium that is now a storm shelter for the community. Kennedy also led the discussion about the process of recovery, emphasizing what should be the top priority.
“You start working debris removal. Get everybody on the same page and work toward the ultimate goal of getting it cleaned up. That’s #1,” says Kennedy.
Kennedy discussed the need for a Comprehensive plan that includes creating building codes and emergency plans. Without this, Federal funds are not available for rebuilding. Hill says seeing Smithville’s progress gives him hope for the future.
“It’s been refreshing to come here and see what recovery looks like on what’s happened here in Smithville,” says Hill.
The Natural Resource Conservation Service also offered advice on how to clean up debris and prevent flooding. FEMA officials also attended the meeting, along with city leaders from Tupelo and Columbus.