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Potential class action lawsuit underway for 2019 flood victims

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Backwater flooding, July 2019.

Lawyers from two out-of-town law firms met with victims of 2019 floods at the Vicksburg Convention Center Saturday.

The firms, Deakle-Johnson Law Firm of Hattiesburg and Pendley, Baudin & Coffin of Plaquemine, La., were exploring the possibility of signing up Delta residents to form a class-action suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and possibly the Environmental Protection Agency. The suit would address the way the agencies managed—or mismanaged—the 2019 floods and the decisions that led to the devastation in the South Delta.

Last year, nearly 550,000 acres in Yazoo Backwater were underwater for 219 days. The acreage included about 230,000 acres of the richest farmland in the nation, preventing many farmers from planting at all. Flooding also forced many residents to leave their homes, and this year is shaping up to be a repeat, with floods already overtopping and closing roads at Eagle Lake.

Much of the flooding is manmade. In 2008, the EPA prevented the Corps from completing a flood mitigation plan in the works since the 1940s. The last piece of the plan calls for installing pumps at the Steele Bayou Control Structure that would pump water out of the Backwater even if river levels closed the gates there to prevent flooding from the rivers. With the rivers high for months in 2019, flooding caused by heavy rains filled up the Backwater like a bathtub.

With the pumps, much of that water would have been pumped out over the gates at a rate of 14,000 cubic feet per day, saving nearly 70% of the homes and land from flooding, a Corps report states.

Lawyer Rome Johnson with Deakle Johnson told WLBT he believes residents have a case for damages based on the 5th Amendment’s Takings Clause, which says the federal government can take private property for public use providing “just compensation” is given.

“What the government has done here is essentially take these citizens’ property with no just compensation,” Johnson said. “So, we feel that they have a great case. Anything going forward, as long as the lawsuit is going on, would be included in the lawsuit.”

If the lawsuit goes ahead, it will join the Mississippi Secretary of State and other entities suing the Corps over the 2019 floods.

In December, Delbert Hosemann, then the state’s attorney general, announced a suit against the Corps and the Mississippi River Commission over damages to the Mississippi Gulf Coast caused by the opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway. Then-Attorney General Jim Hood announced the suit in October 2019, 60 days before filing as required by law, and was accused of using it to gain votes in his run for governor.

The huge influx of freshwater into the Gulf caused a toxic algae bloom that eventually closed every Mississippi beach to swimmers and waders, and the decreased salinity devastated the state’s Gulf seafood industry.

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Massive search continues for two young men on the Mississippi

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(photo by Thomas Parker)

Nearly 24 hours after two young men disappeared on the Mississippi River near the Warren-Claiborne county line, rescuers, many of them community members and volunteers, are still on the job searching for them.

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. Hughes’ mom spoke with her son at 2:48 p.m. Thursday, which may be the last time anyone has spoken to them since.

When they hadn’t returned by Thursday after dark, and family and friends couldn’t reach them by phone, they raised the alarm.

The search began in Warren County around 9 p.m. Thursday with county deputies and personnel from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. The rainy weather and fog hampered the search, which was called off after midnight.

“We had boats out last night until after 2 o’clock this (Friday) morning when the fog and the rain just made it too dangerous to be on the water,” Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said.

First light Friday morning, the search resumed, with more personnel and volunteers joining as the day brightened. They included volunteers with the Cajun Navy, MDWFP personnel, Warren County and Madison Parish deputies, and 28 men and women from the Central Mississippi Overland Search and Rescue Team, which consists of police and firefighters from around the state. A private aircraft and another plane from Madison Parish have also been searching, along with numerous people from the community on land and in the river.

Around 9 a.m., the hunters’ boat was found capsized in the water near Middle Ground Island, roughly adjacent to the Claiborne-Warren county line.

A few items from what would have been on the boat were located later; including one of the three life vests that were onboard.

People tend to underestimate the power of the Mississippi River and there’s nothing to say the two young men had experience traversing it.

“The Mississippi River is dangerous on its best day, and deadly on its worst, and yesterday was just not the best day to be on the water,” Pace said.

The overland search has been called off for Friday. Rescuers will rendezvous Saturday at 7 a.m. to continue, if necessary.

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City employees to ring the bell in support of the Salvation Army

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(photo source: Salvation Army)

”The need is great, but the strength of the community is greater!”

City of Vicksburg employees will be doing their part in assisting the local Salvation Army in operation “Rescue Christmas.” Employees will ring the bell at Kroger from 8 a.m.to 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7.

There are several ways to give at the kettle. Cash is accepted via Apple and Google pay, or you can scan a code that will direct patrons to the Vicksburg kettle donation site. More importantly, all proceeds stay right here in Vicksburg!

Please stop by and help the employees of the City of Vicksburg “Rescue Christmas”!

Schedule – Kroger Monday, Dec. 7

8 a.m. – 9 a.m.
Gary Jackson and Rick Daughtry

9 a.m. – 10 a.m.
COV Traffic Dept

10 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Kim Hopkins and Ashley Hoeft

11 a.m. – noon
Malinda Hill and Fayeshetta Odoms

Noon – 1 p.m.
Fermika Smith and Deputy Chief Paymon

1 p.m. – 2 p.m.
Trey Martin  and Alex Monsour

2 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Vicksburg Fire Department

3 p.m.-4 p.m.
Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and Officer Joseph Stubbs

4 p.m. –  5 p.m.
Nancy Thomas and Doug Whittington

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COVID-19

Mayor taking the gloves off on businesses not complying with COVID-19 regulations

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Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. in Dec. 4 press conference. (photo via video screen grab)

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. is taking off the gloves when it comes to COVID-19 in Vicksburg.

In response to the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Warren County, Flaggs announced Friday that any business not conforming to the city’s COVID-19 restrictions will be cited and fined. If the business continues to flout the law, the city will turn off its utilities. This new, tougher restriction goes into effect at noon Saturday, Dec. 6.

The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases rose to more than 20 per day Friday with 46 cases reported. The average is four times higher than where it was a month ago.

“The mitigation of this disease is too important,” Flaggs said, his voice rising with emotion. He said that continuing the trend will land Warren County on the governor’s hot spot list.

“We will not compromise, and we will not negotiate,” the Mayor added.

Flaggs said that most businesses in Vicksburg are complying to the city’s orders, but a few continue to ignore them.

“We’re not going to let one business disrupt the economy of Vicksburg by not wanting to do what you should be doing,” he said.

Summary of the new order:
Read the complete supplemental order

In addition to the regulations effective Dec. 2, 2020:

  1. All persons are required to wear a face covering, both indoors and outdoors, at group/social gatherings if social distancing (6 feet apart from persons who are not household members) is not or cannot be practiced.
  2. Group/social gathering temperature checks – before entering a group/social gathering, inside or outside, of more than 20 people, the host or other designated responsible person must check the temperature of all persons requesting entrance. If a person’s temperature is higher than 100.4°, the person must not be allowed to enter the group/social gathering. Examples of a group/social gathering are a private party, house party, wedding, wedding reception, wedding or baby shower, sporting event, funeral, worship service or other social event. The host or other designated responsible person must also keep a list of persons attending the gathering and contact information for contact tracing if needed.
  3. Restaurants and bars – businesses that sell alcohol for consumption on its premises or businesses that allow consumption of alcohol on its premises must check the temperature of every employee and patron before entrance. If a person’s temperature is above 100.4°, the person must not be allowed to enter the premises.
  4. The Block Party scheduled for Downtown Vicksburg Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, is canceled and all future Block Parties are canceled until further notice.

Violation of this EMERGENCY PROCLAMATION will be subject to misdemeanor prosecution pursuant to Sec. 45-17-9 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, as amended, Sec. 33-15-7 and Sec. 1-9 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Vicksburg, including a fine of up to $1,000.00 and 90 days in jail.

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