Bentley doesn’t put his arm around the shoulders of storm victims. Instead, he looks people in the eye and holds their hand, much like a doctor would talk to an ill patient in the hospital. He shows emotion in his voice as he talks in specific terms about what happened to them.
Barbour is dealing with twin disasters — tornado recovery and the threat of floods. Although he has visited the hardest-hit areas and offered comforting words to tornado survivors, his style is not that of a hugging father. Barbour’s disaster briefings are businesslike and full of specific information about tornado recovery and flood preparation.
The tornadoes killed 36 people in Mississippi, mostly in the central and eastern parts. Now, an ominous swell of water is heading slowly down the Mississippi River, and forecasters warn the river could reach record levels in mid-May at Vicksburg and other parts.
Since then, Barbour has been warning people in low-lying areas of western Mississippi that they need to secure property and clear out.
“There’s going to be flood water where hardly anybody living today has ever seen it,” said Barbour, 63, who expects that his own Humphreys County lake house will be among the structures deluged.