Out-of-state volunteers chip in to help with massive Desoto County, MS tornado recovery effort

Local In MS

DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. (localmemphis.com) – The damage from two confirmed tornadoes Saturday morning in Desoto County, MS is now believed to be the costliest storm in at least a decade.

Tuesday, the Desoto County office of emergency management said preliminary damage costs are now more than $14 million.

The number of impacted homes also rose compared to Monday’s estimate, with 643 homes now believed to have suffered some kind of damage, including 21 destroyed and 83 with major damage.

At the Lewisburg Fire Department, donations continue to pour in. And Tuesday, out-of-state volunteers chipped in to help the massive Desoto County recovery, focusing first on homeowners left with only a shell of their property.

“Lost everything, but God talked to me and he said ‘you’ve still got your health, you are still OK,’” Sue Williams said.

The 68-year-old feared for her life Saturday morning, as a tornado ripped over home in Olive Branch’s Lewisburg community.

“I got into the closet and stayed there until the roof went off and the water started coming through,” Williams said.

With her home destroyed and the grandmother of seven initially feeling hopeless, Tuesday morning hope arrived with volunteers in orange shirts.

“They walk up and offered to help and I need it,” Williams said.

A disaster relief team from North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse cut trees and cleared debris from Williams’ yard, as volunteers began a weeks-long recovery assistance mission across Desoto County.

“It’s just a wonderful privilege to go in and serve,” Samaritan’s Purse regional program manager Shannon Daley said.

Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief organizers expect up to 50 volunteers will contribute, with the hopes of cleaning up more than 100 affected properties.

“The reason we do this work is just to love on people and to be able to meet homeowners like this one, to be able to walk alongside of them when they are hurting and let them know that they are not alone and they are loved,” Daley said.

Desoto County emergency management leaders are hopeful FEMA will approve disaster relief funding in the next week or so, with the goal of affected homeowners being able to apply for assistance in the next month.

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