Governor tours tornado ravaged Smithville - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Governor tours tornado ravaged Smithville

SMITHVILLE, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Some Mississippi residents and business owners can access federal emergency assistance programs.  President Barack Obama had issued a federal disaster declaration for seven counties Friday.

For the first time in 45 years the magnolia state was hit by an EF-5 tornado.  Right in its path sat the small town of 900 residents, Smithville in Monroe County.  According to the National Weather Service, the tornado packed winds of more than 200 miles per hour.

From the air the scope of the damage the EF-5 five tornado left in its path could be seen clearly.  On the ground among Smithville residents was where the deep devastation and painful loss could be felt of a community now broken.

"What was left was people and bodies everywhere, scattered. It's just the most God awful thing I've seen in my life," said a Smithville man.

It was the strongest tornado to hit Mississippi since the Candlestick Park twister in Jackson in 1966.

14 people were killed in this small town, another 12 are still missing.

"Our lives are totally shattered, but a lot of us are still living. That's something to be thankful for," said Smithville Mayor Greg Kennedy.

Friday Governor Haley Barbour toured streets lined with flattened homes and destroyed businesses.

"The utter obliteration that has happened in this town is moving, eye opening and makes us all committed to doing everything we can to be sure that this community comes back quickly," said Governor Haley Barbour.

Hours later the Governor's request for federal disaster assistance was granted in Monroe County and six others. 

"Making sure there are supplies available, that will be for the immediate.  Then as we build to recover there will be longer term issues that happen that involve housing and small business restoration," said Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano from FEMA headquarters.

For now it is neighbor helping neighbor to rebuild Smithville brick by brick.

©2011 WLBT. All rights reserved.

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