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Gary Davis works disaster recovery for FEMA

Delaware native Gary Davis, 72, is in Oxford working for the Federal Emergency Management Association.

Davis, who was in the library Saturday, said he’s in the area with a team involved in disaster recovery work because of the tornadoes and flooding that happened in Mississippi last winter.

“It didn’t affect Lafayette County so much, but it sort of was an arc running (through)12 or 13 counties,” Davis said. They included Coahoma, Tallahatchie, Tippah, Marshall, Itawamba, Monroe and Clay.

Davis said there was more tornado damage in Marshall County around Holly Springs, high winds in other places, and more flooding on the east side of the state, particularly in Itawamba and Monroe counties.

“I’m in public assistance, where FEMA provides assistance for grants and help for state and local governments to recover from tornado damage,” he said. “It’s hard for a local government to build in a budget for a storm that may never happen, so they don’t have the money set aside. So quite frankly, a lot of those counties that I’ve been in, they don’t have the money, period. It’s fairly poor in some of those counties.”

Davis, who lives in Virginia, said he has never personally experienced a tornado.

“You get some wind and some hurricanes and some flooding occasionally, but I’m surprised at all of the tornadoes out in this part of the country,” he said.

Davis said he arrived in January and saw that Holly Springs had been hit pretty hard.

“I said ‘Man. I’ve never seen this kind of damage before. It’s new to me,’” he said. “Back East, a tornado is an odd occurrence. I won’t say it doesn’t ever happen, but it’s not as widespread as it is out here in the South and the Midwest.”

Davis said he’s experienced an earthquake, but not a tornado.

“I lived in California for several years, and it was a mild earthquake, like 5.5 on the Richter scale,” he said. “It made the doors and the windows shake. Farther Northeast, they had some building damage. That was scary to me. I couldn’t believe it.”

About LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker is a writer, reporter and adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

A veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she spent a decade at the Gannett-owned Clarion-Ledger - Mississippi's largest daily newspaper - covering stories about crime, city government, civil rights, social justice, religion, art, culture and entertainment for the paper's print and web editions. She was also a USA Today contributor.

This year, she received a first place award from the Mississippi Press Association for “Best In-Depth Investigative Reporting.” The story written in 2014 for The Oxford Eagle chronicles the life of a young mother with two sons who have epilepsy, and details how she is patiently hoping legalized cannabis oil experimentation will lead to a cure for their disorder.

Her website is www.lareecarucker.com.

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