2011 in review: A year of weather and politics - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

2011 in review: A year of weather and politics

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Mother nature gave Mississippi its first major disaster from the sky back in April, when an EF5 tornado ripped through the small town of Smithville killing more than a dozen people as it etched a half mile path of destruction.

"What was left was people and bodies everywhere, scattered. it was the most God awful thing I've ever seen in my life," said one resident. "I'm very lucky.

Evidently I have a very talented guardian angel," said another resident.

With winds of more than 200 miles an hour it became the largest tornado to hit Mississippi soil since the 1960's and is still fresh in the minds of the people who lived through it.

"Our lives are totally shattered but you know a lot of us are still living, that's the biggest thing," said one survivor.

Just as soon as clean up began, the state would be hit again with another disaster a week or so later, this time as the Mighty Mississippi River flexed its muscle during the Spring.

"This is caused by snow melt on the upper side of the Mississippi River," said National Weather Service Hydrologist Marty Pope.

"This is going to be a monumental flood," said Governor Haley Barbour.

It certainly was, with a crest of just more than 57 feet pushing hundreds of people from their homes all along the river banks and many more further inland as a result of back water flooding.

The high water lingered for about a month before folks started to return home Only one person was reported to have died from drowning after trying to walk through the high water.

Folks from across Mississippi turned out in full force to help in both disasters giving time, money, supplies and support to those who needed it most.

"We're loading up this tractor trailer that was donated by First Class Linen and as you can see it's pretty full. Right now, bottled water is what we're looking for, also hygiene items," said one volunteer.

As recovery still continues in those areas, the political weather also took a dramatic turn in the state legislature when republicans took control of both chambers after November's general election. Mississippians changed the course of state politics by showing up at the polls.

A total republican majority hasn't happened since the 1870's and several democrats even switched parties to join the GOP.

"It's a different day in a different age and a different set of leaders and again I wish them the very best," said House Speaker and Democrat Billy McCoy.

The shift in control really started moving when McCoy decided not to see re-election after spending more than thirty years in the house, the last 8 of them as speaker.

"He had a reverence and a love for the house of representatives," said Republican Representative Mark Baker.

"He's a great man and cares a great deal about the state of Mississippi and the people in it," said Democratic Representative Cecil Brown.

With a new republican governor getting ready to take over as well, the only democrat still left in a statewide office is Attorney General Jim Hood, who now enters his third term as AG.

During the election, Mississippi gained national attention over a controversial ballot initiative known as the 'personhood amendment,' which would have defined life as beginning at the moment of fertilization, therefore banning abortions.

"It's a radical, extreme measure. it's not be done anywhere else in the country," said amendment opponent Stan Flint.

The measure was defeated by voters.

"Mississippi was overcome with fear instead of faith," said amendment supporter Terri Herring.

As the year now comes to a close, Mississippians will forever know how to overcome tragedy and shape their own future.

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