Nature’s Fury—the Impact of Climate Change in the US South DAY VII Saturday

Veterans of the Road Gather in Marks, Panola County MS to Plan the Route

I was very privileged to find myself in the company of greatness as a group of us ventured out from Jackson at 6:30am to take a 400+mile journey through MS to tour flood threatened and ravaged areas.  I was thrilled to be with one of the original Mississippi Freedom Riders who used his historical knowledge to guide us through the back roads as while planning the most expeditious route including dodging road closures resulting from the flooding.  We also had Jesse Morris, who was also heavily involved in the civil rights movements and Mr. Figgers who is a mentee of these great gentlemen.  In Marks, we met up with Mr. James Figgs who advised us on our route as well while telling us of the sandbagging and other efforts in his community to prepare for the impending flood.

 

Renaissance Community Flooded in Crenshaw, Panola County, MS

 

We visited a town called Crenshaw in Panola County, MS. There we met up with Sheila Kelson who had sent an email that made its way to NAACP State Conference President Derrick Johnson, who shared it with Mr. Figgers to include on our visitation agenda. Ms. Kelson lived in the Renaissance Housing Development where all of the homes were flooded in a matter of moments due to a back-up in the drainage system as water had nowhere to go with the rising waters of the Mississippi. Ms. Lulu, Sheila’s sister described her experience on that fateful day.

Unfortunately, the contents of the home were largely a total loss because the waters were contaminated and, between the bacteria in the water and the mold in the home, the items quickly became toxic. FEMA inspectors declared that the residents should not even touch, much less attempt to salvage, any of the items that were touched by the floodwaters.

Contaminated Items of Flooded Homes

 

Condemned Home Due to Flooding

Sheila asked me if there was anything that can be done regarding the insurance.  When she shared that she didn’t have flood insurance I had to woefully inform her that there was no recourse through the insurance company if she didn’t have flood insurance. Fortunately, FEMA will pick up some of the expenses, but not nearly enough.

The “Cut-Off Point” in Tunica Represents Few Places of Refuge for River Residents

In Tunica, communities that live adjacent to the swelling Mississippi had to relocate to an area dubbed the “cut off point” named because it was the place where the road closed and people couldn’t drive any further towards the river due to the flooding.

Cut Off Point--Temporary Home for Displaced River Residents

Red Cross Provides Temporary Shelter for Displaced River Residents

Several miles from the river we visited a shelter set up in a high school that provides hot meals and shelter for the persons who had to relocate from their riverfront housing.  People staying at the shelter are provided with cots in a large gymnasium. Men sleep on one side of the gym, women on the other, with an area set up in the middle for families. As we toured the gym we saw belongings organized around the cots as people set up their temporary territories marked by piles of possessions.

Cheap Land Equals Devastation for an Impoverished Black Community in Tunica Community

Our last stop in Tunica found us in a low income African American community where the families had been sold plots of land in a low-lying area that was inevitably flood prone.  When the river overtook the community everyone evacuated.  Once the water receded people returned and FEMA came out and evacuated.  However, contrary to what we heard in Crenshaw, people moved right back in with all of their belongings and were not at all told to avoid engaging with flood soaked items. We found the disparity in post-flood directives perplexing and will follow up with local health officials to ensure that the families are not living in a hazardous environment due to the post-flood conditions.

Previously Flooded Home--Family Has Returned

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