BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (WLOX) - Governor Tate Reeves is confident Hurricane Zeta’s damage in South Mississippi will warrant a federal disaster declaration, and bring with it the federal assistance so many people will likely need to fully recover. If it is, it will be Mississippi’s 10th federal disaster in 2020. That’s more than any other year in the last half century
Reeves made stops in all three coastal counties Thursday to survey damage, and thank first responders, power crews, and all those working to help the area cleanup from the hurricane.
We caught up with the governor and MEMA Director Greg Michel during a stop in Bay St. Louis at the scene of a high water rescue. Officials met with first responders who, during the height of the storm, helped rescue a family from a home that collapsed off its pilings. Two people inside the home were injured, but everyone will be okay.
“You’re looking at a group of people who saved lives,” Reeves said of those surrounding him. “I want to thank every first responder, EOC director, who put forth effort in the last 24 to 48 hours. Their efforts truly saved lives.”
Hurricane Zeta hit South Mississippi as a powerful Category 2 storm. MEMA Director Greg Michel said the damage we’re all seeing today should serve as a reminder of the unpredictable nature of storms.
“We still have several weeks in hurricane season. This is not a time to be complacent," Michel said, adding that his team is currently monitoring another storm and Zeta might not be the last hurricane we see this year.
MEMA teams will out doing damage assessments as early as Friday. They will be particularly focused on buildings used as polling places, and getting them ready for Tuesday’s general election.
MEMA has 30 days to compile those damage assessments and submit the details to the federal government for potential assistance.
“We don’t have a good handle just yet on how many homes are affected,” Michel said.
But Reeves said, just judging by what he’s seen so far, Mississippi stands a good chance of qualifying for both public assistance and individual assistance. Ahead of the storm, President Donald Trump approved Mississippi’s Hurricane Zeta emergency declaration. Reeves said the president called him Wednesday night around midnight to check in.
“He assured me that the full effort of the federal government would be on the side of Mississippi as we recover,” Reeves said.
As Governor Reeves set off to his next stop on the coast, he promised residents that help will be available for those in need.
“We want to talk to people on the ground,” Reeves said. “We’re going to do everything we can to reassure people... We’re going to be doing everything we can to help.”