"It sounded like a big train. I had always heard that, but I was never actually that close, and that's exactly what it sounds like."
That's how former Meridian Police Chief Lee Shelbourn described the powerful EF-3 tornado that damaged his Petal home Sunday evening. After it passed, he rushed to his daughter Nicki's home just a few miles away. Thankfully she wasn't at home when it hit, but she watched it tear apart her neighborhood from church just a few blocks away.
"We were seeing it outside, the winds started blowing, and then the funnel cloud touched down right over there, actually it was touching down on ACE Hardware when we saw it. The first thought that went through my head was 'My house is gone.'"
Nicki Shelbourn is grateful her house only received minor damage, and while her house can be repaired, some of her neighbors are going to have to completely rebuild. They say it happened so fast they didn't have time to be scared and are just happy to be alive.
"I didn't know what was happening. We had time to get in the hall and as soon as we got in the hall, the living room was gone and it was over."
If there's a silver lining, it's that those few intense moments on a Sunday evening in this Petal neighborhood has brought neighbors together to help each other in their time of need.
"The churches have been real good, they've had groups come out and help. The neighbors have been extremely well, they have come out and helped us cut these trees up, get them off of homes, and put tarps up on the house."
"We're okay. Insurance can fix everything else. That's all that we're worried about. We'll help everybody clean up, and after that it's just whatever they need help with."