Strong storm slams area

Published 5:00 am Thursday, March 26, 2009

Neil Boyte and his children Christina, 9, and Easton, 4, almostdidn’t find their full-sized trampoline after Wednesday night’ssevere weather carried it more than 1,500 yards from its originalposition.

But that was the least of the family’s problems.

Boyte’s parents, Tim and Patricia Boyte, had their home damagedand the truck they paid off six months ago crushed by a tree thatsurvived both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Camille. Boyte saidhis home and a rental house he owns down Pricedale Drive from hisparents also took damage from the storm.

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“I’ve got to get the roofs fixed before the rain comes tonight,”he said Thursday morning. “And I’ve got to get the tree off therental house.”

Boyte and his family were not alone.

Lincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey saidThursday morning that it would take all day to assess the damagefrom the overnight storms, but that early estimates showed at least10 homes and some vehicles damaged by the storm.

But that’s not the biggest problem yet, Galey said. The next twodays are supposed to bring more severe weather.

“We expect another round of possible severe weather tonight anda good possibility of greater severe weather Friday night andSaturday morning,” he said.

Volunteer firefighters spent the early hours of Thursday morningknocking on doors checking on the residents of homes in theaffected area. Landon and Teresa Britt’s home on Douglas Trail wasone of them.

“But we were blessed,” Teresa Britt said. “It just got ourbatting cage.”

The Britts’ full-sized batting cage was blown from a hollowbehind their house out into their front yard and turned upsidedown. Just down the road, several fallen trees had been cleared byemergency workers in order to make the roads passable.

Galey said the storms affected the areas around Arlington Drive,Apple Trail, Shell Oil Drive, Douglas Trail, Mallalieu Drive,Springfield Trail, Stonybrook Trail, East Lincoln Road, PricedaleDrive, Bogue Chitto Road and Shady Grove Road, and those were justthe ones accounted for as of Thursday morning.

“If you drew a line from Springfield and the interstate over toWarren and East Lincoln, that’s where we’re looking at,” Galeysaid.

The storm damage began around 1:30 a.m., bringing members ofseveral volunteer departments, the Lincoln County Sheriff’sDepartment and Civil Defense out as well as private citizens, allworking to clear the roads affected by fallen trees, power linesand utility poles.

“We’ve still got guys out checking roads and checking for folksthat are blocked in,” said Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing.”But we’re going to have to take this a day at a time as theweather comes through.”

Galey said the National Weather Service had not informed him asof Thursday morning what kind of storms had hit Lincoln County, butstorms that hit Simpson County shortly thereafter are beingreported to be tornados.

Meanwhile, electricity was lost to many area residents. Powercompany officials said crews are working as fast as possible torestore power to the area.

“The guys are out there working now and have been throughout,”said Magnolia Power Company Member Services Director Lucy Shell.”Our crews have been working since outages reported, and we’ve evengot seven contract crews out there.”

Shell said close to 4,000 outages were initially reported acrosstheir membership area, with about 2,500 still out as of 9 a.m.Thursday. She said crews are dealing with blocked roads, so thegoing could be a little slow until the roads are completelycleared.

Entergy Customer Services Manager Kenny Goza said his companyhad experienced some outages, though it is too early to estimatehow many customers had lost power. He said most of it was centeredaround Thayer Crossing between Brookhaven and Bogue Chitto, withsome also in Lawrence County.

Southwest Mississippi EPA Public Relations Coordinator AzaleaKnight said about 50 Lincoln County homes were affected on theirsystems, with the largest group being in the Halbert Heights area.Southwest is also reporting some outages in Copiah and Franklincounties, but customers can expect to be back on by mid-Thursdayafternoon.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said storm damagewas reported in nine counties. In Lawrence County, three homes weredamaged, the agency said.

Gov. Haley Barbour declared a State of Emergency early Thursday.The declaration will allow state resources to be used throughoutthe affected areas to assist local governments as they respond tothis disaster, said MEMA Director Mike Womack.