The flood waters in the South Delta have receded, but the work to repair the damage those floods caused is just in its infancy.
Many of the houses impacted by the flood waters will need to be rebuilt, and the price tag for that complete rebuild comes in at about $65,000 per house using volunteer skilled labor according to Mennonite Disaster Recovery Services.
To help with some of those costs, the Bank of Anguilla partnered with the Community Foundation of Washington County to start a disaster recovery fund earlier this year while some houses were still underwater.
Terri Lane, executive director of the foundation, said there have been approximately 40 residents who will need assistance from the fund for recovery and 20 of those will be complete rebuilds. She also said she knows of at least 200 families whose homes have been harmed by flood water.
The price for rebuild of those 20 houses is $1.3 million.
“This is a staggering number, especially in light of no federal or state disaster declaration for ‘individual assistance,’ as of today,” Lane said on Tuesday.
The federal government has not declared the flooding in the South Delta as an individual assistance disaster meaning there is no federal assistance to rebuild houses and personal property damaged by the flood.
While the work to recover from the flooding is ongoing, it’s level of devastation has truly yet to be accounted.
“Experts in disaster recovery have never seen anything like this,” Lane said of the flooding, which inundated parts of the area for six months or more. Flood waters usually don’t sit that long on a single place.
While the federal government has not stepped in to help, people and organizations in the Delta are doing so.
To do his part, musician Steve Azar, along with several sponsors and friends is organizing a concert called the One Mississippi Singer Songwriter Benefit on Nov. 2 at the Gin at Dunleith Plantation in Leland.
Azar said the concert will be a simple event with singer-songwriter type entertainers and a laid-back atmosphere. There will be food trucks from Doe’s and beverages are BYOB.
“We’re gonna spend no money on this thing,” Azar said. “We want to give as much money away as possible. Come and sit on your lawn chairs.”
To that end, Azar is partnering with the Community Foundation of Washington County to ensure the money gets to where it needs to go.
“We know how to give away money to the arts through St. Cecilia,” Azar said. “But this is what they do.”
The concert wouldn’t be possible without several local sponsors, each who have a stake in the Delta.
“The flood not only affected farmers but all of the businesses that are directly connected to farming, like new and used equipment dealers, chemical companies, ag consultants, etc…” said Bobby Steinreide, executive vice president of Banking at Guaranty Bank. “It also affected all businesses that are dependent on the farm economy for their sales including grocery stores, furniture stores, pharmacies and other business that depend on the wages created by the farms that this year virtually did not operate. The effect was widespread and went far beyond just farmers. People’s lives were changed significantly because of the flooding. Houses were flooded. In many cases, they were destroyed so families were forced to move out of the area, in many cases never to return. Thus, affecting the economy for years to come.“
Help is also coming from outside the Delta.
“After hearing the heartbreaking stories from the families and businesses impacted by the recent flooding, we knew we had to help,” said Kim Dillon, President and CEO of TeleSouth Media, the company that produces Supertalk Mississippi. “Close your eyes and picture your home being flooded with water and that water staying there day after day and not going away. Imagine what it does to your home, your belongings and your memories.”
The firepower behind the event’s host also doesn’t hurt the organization of the concert.
“When Steve calls and says he has an idea you know it’s going to be good and we usually end up saying yes,” said Dillon. “He’s always busy whether its hosting his radio show, In a Mississippi Minute on SuperTalk Missisippi, making world-class music, or hosting the Delta Soul golf tournament, Steve is constantly giving back to Mississippi and we always want to be a part of that mission.”
While the importance of immediate recovery of homes and businesses is important, there is a long-term recovery projection to consider as well.
“The recovery will take years to overcome since the flood’s effect was so widespread and costly,” Steinreide said. “Not only will benefits such as this one bring in dollars that will be so needed but will also bring attention to our problem and what we need to do insure this never happens again, like installing the Steele Bayou pump that we so desperately need.
The Steele Bayou pump is a project that was part of the original flood control plans of the levee system on the Mississippi River. The project was vetoed by the EPA years ago, but is in consideration once again. If those pumps had been in place, less than half of the flooded area would have been affected in the 2018-2019 flood of 500,000 acres.
“Not having the pump affected farms in the South Delta the most but it also extended up into the northwest Delta,” Steinreide said. “Bayous, creeks and ditches stayed full and were unable to drain the agricultural fields after the heavy rains we received thus damaging crops that were already planted and growing. A six-month flood is unprecedented and the damage it did to the South Central Delta was unimaginable but our people will rebound as they always do. Finish The Pumps.”
Supertalk Mississippi and Guaranty Bank join the Delta Group, James Ceranti Dodge, Bayer Crop Science, Southern AgCredit and Ride Records as title sponsors of the concert.
The concert will include performances by Azar, Anthony Smith, Eden Brent, Zach Day, Kerry Kurt Phillips, Jabe Burgess and Good Paper of Reverend Rob Mortimer.
To purchase tickets to the event, go to eventbrite.com and search for One Mississippi Singer Songwriter Benefit Concert. The tickets are $20 and the concert is set to last from 1-10 p.m. on Nov. 2.
About the performers
n Steve Azar is an accomplished singer, songwriter and music producer. His debut album Waitin’ On Joe was released in 2001. The title track went to #1 on CMT and featured Academy award-winning actor Morgan Freeman. From the same album the hit single “I Don’t Have To Be Me, Til Monday” received three Million-Air awards from BMI and is one of the top five most played songs of the past decade on country radio.
n Anthony Smith is a Nashville recording artist. Smith's debut album, If That Ain't Country, on Mercury Records Nashville. Produced three Top 40 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks (now Hot Country Songs) charts. As a songwriter Smith has had over 250 songs recorded by other Nashville recording artist.
n Eden Brent, a Greenville native, is a blues pianist and vocalist, she combines boogie-woogie with elements of blues, jazz, soul, gospel and pop. She took lessons from Abie “Boogaloo” Ames, a traditional blues and boogie woogie piano player and eventually earned the nickname “Little Boogaloo.” In 2006, she won the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge. Along with other awards, Brent garnered two 2009 Blues Music Awards - one for Acoustic Artist of the Year, the other for Acoustic Album of the Year (Mississippi Number One). At The 14th Annual Independent Music Awards in 2015, Eden Brent won the award in the “Holiday Song” category for “Valentine.”
- Zach Day was born in Jackson, raised in Greenville and now resides in Hazlehurst. Day is totally self-taught as a musician in all aspects including guitar, vocals, song writing, performing and business. He has developed a sound that is so raw with Delta Blues and Texas Country that he dubbed his unique style as “Cotton Country.”
- Kerry Kurt Phillips, is who Nashville music industry insiders and country music radio air personalities, have called One of America’s favorite songwriters”. A nominee to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Kerry Kurt’s Grammy winning songs have been featured in Motion Pictures, TV series, Super Bowl commercials, in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, and on Hallmark greeting cards.
- Jabe Burgess is a young up and coming musician from Arkansas who gave up a life as a college football player to become a full-time musician. He has just released a single, “Football Town.”
- Good Paper of Reverend Rob Mortimer is a Greenville-based band with mortician Rob Mortimer at the front on vocals, guitars, lap steel guitar, pianos, organs, synth; Jeffrey Tonos on guitar, synth, backing vocals; David Morgan on bass; Walter Washington on drums; Art Edmaiston on Saxophones; and Bob Dowell on Trombone.
About the foundation and recovery fund
The South Delta Disaster Recovery Fund was created in 2019, at the Community Foundation of Washington County, to allow donors the opportunity to help friends and neighbors throughout Sharkey, Issaquena and Humphreys county with their long-term disaster recovery needs. The fund supports the work of the Delta Force Disaster Recovery agency. To make donations to the South Delta Disaster Recovery fund, contact the foundation at cfwashco.org or call 662-378-3141.