Recovery Begins After Twister

By: Wade Phillips and Jason Simpson
By: Wade Phillips and Jason Simpson

Newton is under a state of emergency and the National Guard was called to action by the governor.

A tornado struck the town around 1:00 p.m., causing extensive damage and an estimated 40 injuries.

Newton was placed under lockdown, with only law enforcement, emergency personnel and a few members of the media allowed into the damaged area.

Mayor Hamp Beatty issued a curfew until the early hours Friday morning, while cleanup crews clear debris and repair downed power lines.

Robert Lathem, director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said the reason for the curfew is two-fold: Keeping people who might venture into the area safe; and preventing looting.

A command post has been set up in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Emergency workers from across the state came to Newton, as well as power company officials, trying to clear trees and downed power lines.

Meanwhile, Newton City Schools will not have classes or run buses on Friday, but they will be open to those who need help, according to superintendent, Dr. Mina Bryan.

Two shelters have been set up to deal with people who need a place to stay.

The Mississippi Christian Service Center on Highway 15 is one of them. People there say they'll be able to accommodate a hundred people.

Officials say Newton Methodist Church in downtown Newton is also available for those left homeless or without utilities due to the storm.

The National Weather Service has rated the tornado as an F-2, packing winds of between 113 and 157 miles per hour--enough to topple trees, down power lines, and destroy buildings.

"It's a terrible thing. It took us by surprise and we are just doing the best we can. We are assessing the situation," said Newton Mayor Hamp Beatty.

The storm left its mark across the city. Some homes were heavily damaged and some not at all.

Barry McCall is a resident of Newton, and after he knew his home was spared, he came out to help other in the twister's aftermath.

"It just missed my house, got several houses around me," said McCall.
"Took the roofs off of them, knocked trees down. These boys with the power company are going to have a job cleaning up."

Over 40 people sustained injuries from the storm, but there were no fatalities.

Many, like Sonic employee Alicia Rainey, considered themselves lucky to escape.

"I had left the Sonic and was driving down Highway 15 through all that heavy rain...could not see," said Rainey. "When I got to Bay Springs and my mother in law told me, I was like, I just walked out. I just missed it. I had to come back and see for myself."

Word spread quickly about the tornado in Newton. Within a few hours, volunteers from all over the state poured into Newton County. State emergency managers and Gov. Ronnie Musgrove arrived with a
promise to do whatever it takes to help storm victims as quickly as possible.

"The most important thing is to react quickly to make sure our people are safe," said Musgrove. "The best news is that we've gotten no reports of fatalities. There were two critical injuries, and a number of others.
The important thing is that we're able to pull agencies together, DHS, MHP, MEMA."

Emergency crews will be working around the clock for the next few days trying to return some sense of normalcy to Newton.


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