Flood Victims Pick Up The Pieces

Help has arrived for victims of a devastating flood that swept through parts of Lamar and Marion counties. On Sunday, the Red Cross opened a family service center in the Greenville community about 10 miles northwest of Purvis.

The devastation began on Friday after the Big Bay Lake dam collapsed sending billions of gallons of water gushing into the countryside. Emergency officials say initial assessments show more than 60 homes suffered major damage or were destroyed.

It took seeing Adam Bilbo's house dragged off it's slab to realize what the force of 3.5 billion gallons of water could do.

"All of the lumber, the barn, the shops and the house were moved at least 20 feet," said Bilbo. "It's all collapsed and everything is strode within a quarter mile through the woods."

Most of the neighbors didn't fare any better. Flooding left cars stuck in trees, farm equipment submerged in water and houses barely standing.Then there are homes like that of Cecil Thompson, who is an army national guardsman with the 8-90th. With the battalion due back home soon, his family was looking forward to a celebration. Now they're looking for the words to tell him that there's no home to come back to.

Thompson's niece Sheila Smith also lost her home. "I'm still having a reaction. It's incomprehensible."

The Red Cross did what it could for people whose whole lives were washed away. People like the Blessitt family were wondering how many tragedies can come in one lifetime.

" Everything we worked for is gone. In 2001 we got burned out. Now it's just gone." said Ruby Blessitt.

With some families evacuating just minutes before the flood hit, many people are counting their blessings rather than losses.

"By the grace of God. That's the only reason I'm still standing here," said Smith. "I thank God it didn't happen in the nighttime when everyone would have been killed most likely I believe."

As I filmed the destruction, I spotted a wet photograph lying on the side of the road. It was a picture of a newlywed couple about to embark on a new beginning just as many in this community plan to do.

"Our family and friends are all around us helping," said Bilbo. "We're just trying to start over."

The Red Cross says many families are in desperate need of clothing. If you would like to help contact your local chapter.