Mississippi rural water responds after tornado

RAYMOND, Miss. – Kirby Mayfield was in Washington, D.C. for the Rural Water Rally when he learned that a tornado was cutting through Mississippi. He immediately called his staff of water professionals, and had them prepare to offer assistance to affected water utilities.

“I got the phone call at 10 p.m. in Washington,” said Mayfield, the executive director of the Mississippi Rural Water Association. “I notified my staff and they started making calls behind it.”

In the past, disaster response activities were coordinated by Mayfield, but this was the first time that Circuit Rider Randy Turnage would be responsible for leading the response. Mississippi rural water activated the Rural Water Emergency Assistance Cooperative at 1:30 p.m. on February 10th in preparation for the severe weather. Once the tornado moved through, Turnage and circuit riders Charles Odom and James Benefield began contacting systems affected by the storms.

“We contacted nearly every system that could have been damaged,” Turnage said. Some of the utilities had to be contacted in person the following day.

Lamar Park Water and Sewer suffered the worst damage. When Benefield visited the system, it was running on generators and had numerous leaks. Wes Hodges, the water system operations specialist, has been working to repair the system despite losing his home in the storm.

Odom responded to several utilities to assist with locating and repairing leaks. Flooding damaged lines in several systems, leaving customers without water of limited the ability of the utility to restore service. Odom located leaks at M&M Water Association and Copiah Water Association, and they were quickly repaired. A larger leak at the Whistler Water Association was at a river crossing, the size and location of the leak making it difficult to repair immediately. Odom arranged for the adjacent Clara Water Association and Bucktunna Water Association to provide aid until the leak could be repaired.