It’s Official: Tornado damaged, destroyed 140 structures here

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 8, 2003

State and local emergency response officials, utility companyworkers and volunteers are continuing to assist in the recoveryprocess following a Sunday night storm that destroyed or damagedmore than 100 homes and business in northwest Lincoln County.

Clifford Galey, Lincoln County Civil Defense director, reportedprogress Tuesday morning in getting roads open to traffic.

“Most of the roads are passable,” said Galey, adding that theyare not totally cleared of debris.

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Old Church Road, in the area where four electric powertransmission towers fell, was one that remained closed.

“There’s big power lines down all in there,” said District 5Supervisor Gary Walker.

According to civil defense reports, 10 homes, 17 mobile homes,two businesses and nine farms were destroyed by the tornado thatmoved through the Loyd Star community Sunday night. Seventeenhomes, five mobile homes, two businesses and eight farms sustainedmajor damage while others had minor damage.

Galey said the path of damage was approximately 17 miles longand about five miles wide.

National Weather Service officials initially classified thestorm as a “macroburst” but later Monday changed that assessment toa F-2 tornado. Tornadoes are rated on scale of zero to five.

“The higher the number, the higher the wind in the tornado,”Galey said.

Winds were estimated to be from 70-100 miles per hour. In manyareas, the tops of trees were broken off.

“It looks like someone ran a bush hog through a pine forest,”said Mike Dill, operations officer with the Mississippi EmergencyManagement Agency (MEMA).

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove declared a State of Emergency for LincolnCounty and others hit by Sunday’s storm.

MEMA Executive Director Robert Latham, who toured the damagedareas Monday afternoon, said the governor’s declaration is thefirst step toward getting possible federal relief and help from theSmall Business Administration. An SBA declaration would allow lowinterest loans to homes and business.

“Lincoln County took the brunt as far as tornado and winddamage,” Latham said.

A federal declaration would require at least 100 homes destroyedor having major damage per county, Latham said. An SBA declarationrequires 25 homes.

“I don’t think we’ll have any problems meeting the threshold forthe SBA,” Latham said. “It’s pretty obvious.”

Rep. Jim Barnett also toured the storm area Monday. He said thearea was fortunate no one was killed or seriously injured.

“We’re going to do everything we can to help the people get somedisaster assistance,” Barnett said.

Layla Edwards, executive director the Mid-South American RedCross chapter, said national officials were coming in Tuesday toassist victims with disaster claims. Local and area Red Crossvolunteers remained in the Loyd Star area to feed storm victims andresidents.

“We’ve had volunteers on the scene since Sunday night,” Edwardssaid.

An Emergency Response Vehicle was set up at the Mormon Church onJackson-Liberty Road. Edwards said 150 people were served mealsMonday.

New Hope United Methodist Church was planning an open doorservice from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday. Church officials said the servicewould be for anyone needing counseling and other assistance.

Meanwhile, Southwest Electric Power Association crews wereworking to restore power to the area.

“We’re getting a lot back on slowly but surely,” said JimmyJune, member services manager.

June said a main power line along Highway 550 was up, but somecustomers on the line were still without power. Loyd Star Schooland some Jackson-Liberty Road customers had power restored.

Loyd Star School classes resumed Tuesday after being closedMonday.

June said 60-80 poles and many power lines were downed duringthe storm. He estimated that as many as 3,000 customers werewithout power at one point, but that number was down to around2,000 Tuesday morning.

“Hopefully, we’ll have them all back on by Wednesday evening,”June said. “We’ll have a lot of them back on today.”

Power was largely restored in the Wesson area by Tuesdaymorning, according to Wesson Police Officer Steve Carlisle.

A precautionary boil water alert issued Monday by the LincolnRural Water Association is still in effect, said Billy Walker,general manager of the association.

“It’s mostly around Loyd Star, but there are a few areas inCopiah County also,” he said.

He said with the extensive and widespread damage to the area theeasiest way to know if a customer needs to boil their water is ifthey woke up Monday morning with no water.

“If they woke up Monday and had water, they should be OK,” hesaid.

Fortunately, Walker said, there does not appear to be any damageto the water distribution system.

“We haven’t found any leaks yet,” he said. “With all those treesdown, it’s a wonder some of them didn’t uproot any lines. We’restill looking.”

The alert was issued after the storm knocked out power to thewells, he said.

“There is no contamination. This is just a safety precaution,”he said.

Any time a well goes down for more than eight hours, the waterneeds to be tested for health safety, Walker said. The water needsto run for a certain amount of time before tests can be made,however, and it will be Thursday before those can be done.

The samples are considered an emergency situation, he said, andshould be back on Friday with an all clear. If the tests are notreceived Friday, however, it will be Monday before the associationcan announce the water as safe.