Relief efforts underway after tornado hits Columbus

After Saturday's intense thunderstorms, many Columbus buildings suffered from flooding along the Tombigbee River. 

An EF-3 tornado touched down in Columbus on Saturday, leaving residents stunned as they mourned the loss of their businesses, homes and neighbors.

The National Weather Service in Jackson confirmed the tornado was a result of severe thunderstorms throughout Saturday evening.

As a result of this twister, Tupelo resident Ashley Glynell Pounds, 41, died due to injuries acquired when a building collapsed on her and three others. According to The Weather Channel, the death of this Tupelo mother marks America's first tornado death of 2019.

A second tornado-related death has been confirmed. Columbus resident Donald Charles “Donnie” Schippel, 77, died Wednesday. Schippel was repairing damages on a local business’ roof when he fell 12 feet.

Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill said the City of Starkville began aiding in the relief efforts to its sister city on Saturday by sending fire trucks and fire truck assistance, as well as working to help restore electricity to the impacted areas.

“From the public standpoint, you are assisting the public,” Spruill said. “That is one of the things government does. Just because you are not within our boundaries, we have a mutual aid agreement with our surrounding communities that we will help them wherever they need it, and they then return that favor to us.”

Spruill said she believes this is just the right thing to do.

“I think it’s the fair thing to do, the neighborly thing to do," Spruill said. "They are also a sister city to us in the Golden Triangle region, and so from my perspective, that is something that you share as part of a region and its also something that is just how you treat your neighbor."

According to an announcement sent out to MSU faculty and students, there are various opportunities to aid with the relief efforts for those impacted by Saturday’s tornado.

In order to volunteer in the area, one must register before showing up.

“Capacity is stretched very thin during disasters, and you need to make sure that you be utilized,” the university announced.

If anyone is interested in volunteering or making monetary donations, contact the Lowndes County United Way at 662-328-0943, or the Maroon Volunteer Center at 662-325-2150.

To help MSU students who have been effected by the tornado, donations can be made to the MSU Student Relief Fund.

During this time of need, Spruill said she feels helping Columbus revive from this tragedy is something for which she is proud.

“Part of what we do with the university is we share resources, and I think that is the way we handle our relationships with our neighbors,” Spruill said. “I don’t think this is any different than that, and I am very pleased that we have been able to give assistance at their time of need."

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