Storms Pound Mississippi

By: Wade Phillips, George McDonald, and Andrea Williams
By: Wade Phillips, George McDonald, and Andrea Williams

A day after work on his new roof was complete, strong winds knocked a huge tree onto John Keller's house in Suqualena, north of Meridian.

"Wind came through real fast. It started hailing, tree tops came through on my house," said Keller. "Limbs came through the ceiling. Water is leaking through the ceiling."

The damage wasn't limited to Keller's home. Damage was pretty extensive throughout the Suqualena area.

Emergency workers spent the afternoon pulling and cutting trees off or roads. Debris was everywhere.

Residents said they don't know whether or not the storm actually produced a small tornado, but they say whatever it was, it was pretty scary.

"It got up and the wind direction changed from the north to the south, and it had a swirling motion in it at times," said Robert Boone.

Those winds mean work will have to begin again soon on Keller's roof, but he says he still feels pretty fortunate.

"Just glad nothing happened to me and my family," Keller said.

Keller and his neighbors are all likely thankful for that same thing, even though cleanup may go on for days.

In Scott County, a tornado destroyed two mobile homes and damaged others.

"First we heard a whistle and there it was," said Robert Wilkerson, who said he saw a tornado. "It was on the ground."

The tornado uprooted some trees and snapped others like toothpicks along a stretch of Hwy 481 in the Leesburg community in Morton, Miss.

Emergency management officials in Scott County say one mobile home sustained major damage, seven received minor damage and two were completely destroyed. However, no one was injured, leaving storm victims counting their blessings and sifting through rubble and debris.

The tornado picked up and tossed Stephanie Massey's trailer hundreds of feet. She said she and her family had moved out of only weeks ago.

Rankin County was also hit hard by the weather on Wednesday. The scene there might be best described as a den of devastation.

Almost 60 houses were damaged in the Monterey community, just south of Brandon.

"The early count is that we have approximately 57 homes in various stages of damage and that ranges anywhere from moderate to destroyed," said Tommy Steen of Rankin County Emergency Management.

Of those, officials say 15 received major damage and 17 were destroyed. One family had a porch, but lost everything else.

"Starting over there about 15 feet up to where that tree is broken off, we're finding stuff of ours all scattered all out in here," said Trae Welch. "I think it's just a mixture of the whole neighborhood actually."

At the time of the storm, Welch says he, his wife and their two young children had just left their mobile home to seek safety at a friend's house nearby.

The physical damage is extensive. Officials say six people were injured during the storm, one in critical condition. Meanwhile, as the cleanup begins emergency responders are on site meeting homeowners' needs.

"We're working in connection with Rankin County's EOC and as long as they need us here serving, we won't leave until all of the needs are met," said Mark Jones of The Salvation Army.

As for the Welch family, this blow comes just months before they are set to move into a house currently under construction. The family is looking to the future.


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