River drops...but not fast enough
As floodwaters steadily receded this week from the Mississippi River’s May 11 crest at 47.8 feet, Tunica County’s planning department issued a 15-point preliminary timeline “for returning to the Tunica Cut-off area.”
Access roads to the four camps situated on the east bank of the oxbow lake are emerging form the debris-filled water, and residents are increasingly anxious to see for themselves the damage to the 225 permanent homes and 100 plus other structures in the area.
“I want to see what’s going on with my house,” said Cassiopeia, who owns a “house house” at Nel-Win Camp and rooms with her daughter Janis ‘J.J.’ Robertson.
“We saw the pictures, but there’s no way to get a sense of what it really looks like.”
The two found a temporary home at The Columns Bed & Breakfast in the town of Tunica after evacuating April 29 and are already receiving rental assistance from FEMA.
But they left behind furnishings, memorabilia and hundreds of books. They say they will try to comply with county stipulations and vow to return to the place both describe in idyllic terms.
“It’s more like a retirement area,” J.J. explains. “There are benefits for people all the time. Everybody helps everybody out there.”
The Yazoo Mississippi Delta Levee Board re-opened the levee late Monday, May 23, clearing one hurdle for the Cut-off evacuees.
Early this week, county officials began taking applications for demolition permits but by mid-week were still waiting for floodwaters to go down to start preliminary inspections and clean-up.
“Even though the Memphis gauge is down to 35.67 feet (as of presstime Wednesday), we’re thinking that water draining from the White River into the Mississippi is keeping the water up in the Cut-off,” county planner Pepper Bradford said.
A big step in the process is securing an appointment with the Damage Assessment Team sent by Mississippi Emergency Management to assist county staff.
The team and the homeowner will go inside each home that is deemed safe to enter. Unsound buildings must be removed without an interior inspection, according to planners’ timelines.
“If a home is deemed ‘substantially damaged’ (repairs estimated to be at least 50 percent of value of home), homeowners must fill out a Floodplain Development Permit, AND the home must be raised to a minimum of one foot above 205.5 feet before repairs begin. Submission of an Elevation Certificate that includes a survey will be required for a Building Application,” the timeline states.