In August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina slammed into our state, people around the country were ready to help. Mississippians witnessed an outpouring of kindness from strangers that has not been forgotten. As hurricanes Harvey and Irma wreak devastation on the Gulf Coast region, I know the same spirit of compassion and goodwill will be extended to those hurt by these storms.
Mississippians are already working to lend a helping hand, repaying the service that was given to our coastal neighborhoods and communities after Katrina. Some of our first responders have been deployed to hard-hit areas, churches have mobilized donation drives, and prayers have been lifted. Days after Harvey made landfall in Texas, the Vicksburg campus of the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) – one of five NCCC campuses in the country – became a staging area for teams across the nation to provide relief. NCCC members assist with the immediate needs of a natural disaster, such as clearing debris.
Alongside storm cleanup, Mississippi’s amateur radio operators are addressing communication needs. With no electricity and destroyed communications infrastructure, hurricane victims have limited options to connect with first responders. Amateur, or “ham,” radio operators played a vital role after Katrina, and many Mississippians are volunteering as part of a national hurricane response effort led by the American Radio Relay League. In addition to transmitting emergency calls and facilitating life-saving resources, amateur radios enable the recovery effort get underway as quickly as possible despite continued outages among main communications lines. They are also useful in monitoring a storm’s lingering effects and conditions, such as wind speed. Given the reliability and resiliency of amateur radios, I have been supportive of their continued service, authoring a bill this year designed to ease some of the regulatory hurdles that amateur radio operators have faced.
The federal government is also acting to provide immediate hurricane relief as it did following Katrina and Sandy. Congress recently passed disaster funding for the affected areas, including needed support for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. I am thankful that President Trump and lawmakers from both political parties were willing to work quickly to ensure that needed resources continue to reach storm victims. On the policy front, congressional efforts to reform the National Flood Insurance Program can help reinforce the long-term sustainability and capacity of the program, which has struggled with financial solvency in recent years. Katrina exposed the difficulties that property owners often face when filing insurance claims on total-loss properties. I have been an advocate for better data collection in the claims process, which could facilitate more accurate assessments on the impacts of wind and water on property damage.
Mississippians know all too well that a full recovery does not happen overnight. Twelve years after Katrina, we have seen the time, effort, persistence, and collaboration required at all levels of the government to rebuild and restore what was lost. We may not be able to stop the storms that come pummeling into the Gulf of Mexico, but the gusts and tides are no match for our vigilance and perseverance. Mississippi was determined to come back stronger after Katrina, and I have every confidence that the communities hurt by Harvey and Irma will do the same.