Thursday, September 24, 2020

In Tornado’s Aftermath, Residents of Columbus Come Together

By journalism student Emma Rose Davis

A tornado struck Columbus, Mississippi on Saturday, leaving people homeless and hundreds without power.

The tornado, which tore through the eastern and central part of the town and destroyed several buildings and resulted in one fatality. According to The Commercial Dispatch, seven people were hospitalized on Saturday with non-life-threatening injuries.

Hannah Perrigin, a Columbus native, said her family was not affected directly, but several people close to her either lost their businesses or have been affected by flooding.

“We have already seen Columbus come together [since Saturday], so I hope that we continue to work as a community to restore our city,” she said.

Ole Miss student Miller Greene, also a Columbus native, said seeing his hometown hurting has been hard to watch. However, he is hopeful for the recovery.

“It could be a good opportunity for the community to come together. I know some areas were affected more than others so those less affected can lend in a hand during the rebuilding process,” Greene said.

Joe Dillon, public relations director for the city of Columbus, said Monday was a brighter day and that unaffected residents of the town were eager to help.

More than 300 volunteers and 25 local businesses came together to begin the damage control less than 24 hours after the tornado hit.

“Considering it was less than 48 hours ago [since the tornado hit] we have seen a significant change already,” Dillon said.

The tornado tore the roof off of Hunt Success Academy, a local middle school. Students were relocated and absorbed by Columbus High School.

Columbus Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong said the town is making slow but steady efforts and that the surrounding towns have been really helpful.

According to The Commercial Dispatch, a Pentecostal church was completely demolished on Saturday night but continued to hold a church service on the grounds including a baptism borrowed from another local church.

Todd Gale, with Columbus Light and Water, spoke to The Commerical Dispatch and said approximately 900 residents are without power on Monday morning which is a drastic decrease from the 4,700 residents in the dark on Saturday night.

This storm rocked many news stations and put this small town on the radar when news stations like USA Today and The Associated Press reported on the tragedy that struck on Saturday night.

The last time the town saw damage like this was in 2008 when a storm hit the Columbus area, leaving 12 people injured.

Mississippi Lt. Governor Tate Reeves will be making an appearance in the town Tuesday, and Governor Phil Bryant will be coming on Wednesday to assess the damage.

There is a temporary shelter set in place in The Townsend Community Center for citizens whose property was damaged.

Dillon said a website will launch on Wednesday letting people know where they can make donations to help the city get back on its feet. People in need can go to a central location and state what they need so they can accumulate a donations list.

“What the town needs right now is feet on the ground getting the debris cleaned up,” Armstrong said.