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Easter Sunday storms take 11 lives as they tear through Mississippi

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(Photo courtesy MEMA)

Easter Sunday 2020 now lives in Mississippi’s history forever. Storms and tornadoes ravaged the state leaving 11 dead and numerous others injured.

Early estimates from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency say there is significant damage in 18 counties. Some 72,000 service outages were reported from the state’s electrical power providers.

Two of the 11 who died were Lawrence County Deputy Sheriff Robert Ainsworth and his wife Paula, a Walthall County deputy justice court clerk. Initial reports indicate Ainsworth perished attempting to shield his wife from the storm that destroyed their Jayess, Miss., home.

The same storm is believed to have claimed three more lives near Bassfield in neighboring Jefferson Davis County.

Investigators from the National Weather Service and MEMA are on the ground this morning beginning the process of assessing damage and calibrating the power and track of these deadly storms.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued an emergency declaration late Sunday allowing necessary resources to be allocated to the affected areas.

At around 6:30 a.m. Monday, MEMA issued the following preliminary report on Sunday’s storms:

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is responding to the severe weather that hit the state on April 12, 2020. Additionally, Governor Tate Reeves signed a State of Emergency in response to this severe weather outbreak. There are 11 confirmed deaths and multiple injuries throughout the state due to the severe weather.

Counties Reporting Fatalities:

  • Carroll – 1 Fatality
  • Jefferson Davis – 4 fatalities
  • Jones – 2 fatalities
  • Lawrence – 2 fatalities
  • Panola – 1 Fatality
  • Walthall – 1 fatality

There are currently more than 72,000 without power in the state. At this time, 18 counties have submitted damage reports to MEMA. These are initial reports, numbers could increase or decrease throughout the day.

  • Bolivar – 40 homes, 20 apartments, 20 roads debris, 20 roads damaged. 30 persons displaced.
  • Carroll –2 homes, 7 roads closed due to debris
  • Chickasaw –4 roads closed due to debris.
  • Clarke –5 homes destroyed, 5 homes major damage, 5 with minor damage,7 mobile homes damaged
  • Grenada –15 homes, 1 apartment, 100 roads closed due to debris
  • Humphreys –1 home damaged, power poles down, 3 people displaced
  • Jasper 8 homes destroyed, 6 homes major damaged, 6 homes minor damaged, 5 homes affected, 3 mobile homes destroyed, 40 displaced
  • Jefferson Davis – 100 homes, 40 roads closed debris, 40 roads closed damage, 75-80 displaced, multiple powerlines down
  • Jones – damage to structures
  • Lafayette –5 homes damaged
  • Montgomery –10 homes, 2 roads closed due to debris
  • Newton –2 homes, 11 roads closed due to debris. 2 persons displaced.
  • Noxubee –5 homes, 5 roads closed due to debris and 5 roads closed due to damage.
  • Rankin –1 home damaged, 2 roads closed due to damage, 2 people displaced
  • Smith – 10 homes, 2 apartments, 5 roads closed due to debris, 5 roads closed due to damage.
  • Sharkey – 1 home damaged. Approx. 250 customers without power. Power and phones outage to Courthouse and Sheriff Dept. Calls routed to dispatcher’s office.
  • Tate –3 homes damaged, 7 roads closed due to flooding/debris, 1 road closed due to damage. 1 road washed out
  • Yazoo –8 homes damaged, 1 road closed due to debris, 2 people displaced

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is working with local county EMA directors to assess the need for long-term sheltering. The statewide shelter-in-place remains in effect. We want to remind people to social distance as best as possible and if you’re in a public shelter, wear some kind of mask to cover your mouth and nose to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

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Search for two young men on the Mississippi to resume Sunday morning

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(photo by Thomas Parker)

The search for the two missing young men on the Mississippi River near the LeTourneau Landing has been called off for the night and will resume at 7:30 a.m. Sunday according to Warren County Fire Coordinator Jerry Briggs.

Anyone participating in the search is asked to coordinate their efforts through the incident command which is set up south of LeTourneau Road.

Multiple agencies are assisting in the efforts to locate the missing men. Numerous items that were in the boat and the boat itself have been recovered.

The young men, Gunner Palmer, 16, from Copiah County, and Zeb Hughes, 21, of Wesson, Mississippi, went out on a boat Thursday with their dog to find a good spot for duck hunting near Davis Island. They have not been heard from since Thursday afternoon.

Sunday will mark the fourth day of search and recovery efforts.

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Silver Alert issued for Holmes County man

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(photo courtesy MDPS)

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has issued a Silver Alert for Charlie H. Haynes Jr., 61, of Durant, Mississippi, in Holmes County.

Haynes is a black male, 6 feet tall, weighing 260 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.

He was last seen Thursday, Dec. 3, at about 8:30 a.m. in the vicinity of Park Street in Holmes County. He was wearing a blue shirt and gray pants.

Haynes is believed to be in a 2020 beige ES350 Lexus bearing Mississippi license plate HNT1037 and traveling in an unknown direction.

Family members say Haynes suffers from a medical condition that may impair his judgement. If anyone has information regarding the whereabouts of Charlie H. Haynes Jr., call the Holmes County Sheriff’s Department at 662-834-1511.

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U.S. House passes historic bill to legalize marijuana

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East side of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (photo by Martin Falbisoner own-work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed what is being hailed as an historic bill to legalize the use of marijuana in the country.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act proposes to remove marijuana from the list in the Controlled Substances Act of 1971, which first equated pot with drugs such as heroin and LSD. It also proposes to expunge certain low-level criminal offenses, sets up a 5% sales tax on sales to reinvest in communities disproportionately affected by drug enforcement, provide for more research and other measures.

The MORE act was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee a year ago and is the first of its kind to make it to a vote on the House floor. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), was passed Friday by a vote of 228-164 along mostly party lines: 222 Democrats, five Republicans and Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian, voted in support of the bill, while 158 Republicans and six Democrats voted against it.

“Millions of Americans’ lives have been upended as a result of convictions for possessing small amounts of marijuana, and the racial disparities in conviction rates for those offenses are as shocking as they are unjust,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), said in a statement after the vote. “That’s why we passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act today.”

A 2020 analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union concluded that “Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, notwithstanding comparable usage rates.”

“In every single state, Black people were more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, and in some states, Black people were up to six, eight, or almost 10 times more likely to be arrested,” the analysis continued. “In 31 states, racial disparities were actually larger in 2018 than they were in 2010.”

Democrats in support of the law also cited the growing numbers of states legalizing both medical and recreational uses of marijuana. To date, 34 states have legalized medical marijuana, including Mississippi last month, and 11 have approved it for recreational use.

In response, critics of the bill attacked Democrats for bring the bill up during the COVID-19 pandemic and cited law-and-order arguments.

“Marijuana is one of the most abused substances on this planet,” said Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.). “Yes, legalizing weed would create revenue from taxes, but at what cost? Do we then start legalizing cocaine? Marijuana is a gateway drug, make no mistake about that. It undoubtedly leads to further and much more dangerous drug use.”

It is unlikely the bill will be brought to a vote in the U.S. Senate.

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