Forrest County and Hattiesburg officials are preparing to assess the damage caused by flooding.
“We’ll be starting that assessment for individual properties tomorrow with FEMA and MEMA," Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree said. "We have teams for probably 4 or 5 that’ll be going out not only in Hattiesburg, but Petal and also Forrest County.”
DuPree said the city and county have already started assessing damage done to public property, especially roads.
“Most of our roads are becoming passable, and we’re assessing all of our roads now," he said. “If there are roads that are damaged because of the water sitting on there, those are going to be out top priorities. We may not be able to go an pave the road. That’s not going to be possible. But we’re going to try to make sure it’s passable and take care of the traveling public, so it won’t be a difficult way for them to maneuver and be safe for them as well.”
While Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency last week for areas affected by flooding, DuPree said these damage assessments will determine if a federal state of emergency can be declared. DuPree said there must be at least $4 million worth of damage for a federal declaration.
"We’ll be going out taking pictures of the structures, trying to see where the water line was to see if it was a minor damage or major, destroyed damage because if we reach the $4 million threshold for the state, and then it comes into play, well how does that play with us? Because I would venture to say that there’s a great number of people in the affected area that did not have flood insurance," DuPree said.
He also said it is essential for individuals to document their own damage before making any repairs.
“If you need to make some assessment and correct some things so you can get back to a livable stage, do it, but don’t tear out carpet and do all these kinds of things without documenting," DuPree said. "I mean, I can’t say that enough. You’ve got to document. Take pictures of what the water did to your home, to your structure. If we get a federal declaration, that’s the only way that you’re going to be able to be reimbursed. If you don’t document, and you just say ‘I just lost this,’ but there’s no pictures and there’s no documentation, then you’re not going to be able to do that. Going through Katrina and the tornado in 2013, we should be well aware in our area what we need to do in order to try to be reimbursed. We hope that if there’s a federal declaration, then we’ll have another center set up with all the federal agencies in there, but we have to wait our turn to see if that happens or not.”
DuPree said he was proud of the work by city, county and emergency management officials to create flooding preparation plans that saved lives.
“We had no deaths again," DuPree said. "Isn’t that wonderful that we had no deaths? I think I attribute that again to the working relationship we have with everyone. Everyone pitching in.”