EF1 Tornado rips through Lincoln and Copiah counties

Published 12:28 pm Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Preliminary data from the National Weather Service in Jackson indicates an EF1 tornado went through Lincoln and Copiah counties Monday afternoon.

NWS storm survey teams were in the area to look at damage Tuesday.

The tornado had peak winds of 105 mph. Its path length was 6.8 miles and its width was a maximum of 300 yards, according to the NWS.

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“This tornado touched down southwest of Norton Assink Road in northwest Lincoln County and tracked northeast into southern Copiah County. The heaviest damage was along Jackson-Liberty Road, Old Red Star Road and Shady Grove Lane. Heavy tree damage occurred at this location. Historic Sweetwater Methodist Church was damaged where it was pushed off its foundation,” NWS said in its storm report.

“There are a total of four tornados that occurred in Mississippi Monday that our teams are investigating,” said Mike Edmonston, a meteorologist with the NWS in Jackson.

An EF1 tornado can create severe, damaging winds, he said. The final reports regarding the tornados will be released after more assessment of the damage is made, Edmonston said.

Downed trees and power lines, several damaged homes and a church and flooding proved to be the extent of the construction caused by the storm, according to the NWS.

Sweetwater Methodist Church on Jackson Liberty Road recieved severe damage, Copiah County Emergency Management Director Randle Drane said.

The 192-year-old church was moved approximately three feet off of its foundation, said Kenny Fancher, the first person to drive up after the tornado came through.

“It came through before I got up to it,” he said. “I didn’t see it. I was half a mile from where it happened.”

Fancher said when he pulled up near the church he could see trees were down everywhere.

“There were trees across the road,” he said. “There were trees down behind the church. The church looked like it was leaning backward. When I got up to it, I saw that the structure was shoved straight back. There was a big split in the front of the wall. It blew the front doors off.”

Although Fancher is not a member of the church, he helped the church members before returning to his home on Hwy. 550. 

“When I arrived, you could tell where the church had been shifted on the foundation, causing the walls to crack open,” Drane said.

The church’s congregation is anticipating tearing down the structure, church member Jennifer Smith said.

“They are sending a company tomorrow probably to try and get the piano, pews and other stuff out,” she said. “We are going to have services in the annex behind the church for now. It wasn’t hurt.”

Smith said church members were meeting Tuesday night to decide on the next step to rebuild. 

Roofs were also torn off of several chicken houses located on Sylvarena Road, Drane said.

In Wesson, a top was blown off a mobile home and trees and power lines were downed, according to the National Weather Service. A shed and two barns were also destroyed.

A tree fell on a house on South Cleveland Avenue in Brookhaven. Owner Mary Ann Smith and her son, Cary Smith, said no one was injured.

They were able to get their car out unscathed, although the rooftop wasn’t so lucky. There’s a hole in the roof over the kitchen, and rain was coming into the dining room and a bedroom during the storm, she said.

A tree also fell on a mobile home on Hilltop Road, according to Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Clifford Galey.

No injuries were reported in Lincoln or Copiah counties, officials said.

Hail was also reported with the storm.

The storm survey team also reported that an EF0 tornado went through Jefferson County Monday. It had 85 mph winds.

“This tornado touched down along Perth Road and tracked northeast across Hwy. 28 in central Jefferson County. Damage was only to trees with many limbs broken and a couple dozen snapped or uprooted trees. After crossing Hwy. 28, the tornado mainly tracked just to the south of Old 20 Road for a couple of miles before dissipating,” NWS said in its report.

Winter tornadoes aren’t new to Lincoln and Copiah counties. An EF2 tornado hit Copiah County in February of last year, and an EF1 hit Bogue Chitto the same day. In January of last year, an EF1 hit Lincoln and Copiah counties.

Approximately 900 Magnolia Electric Power customers still did not have power Tuesday afternoon, according to member service director Lucy Shell. That’s down from 9,000 customers without power Monday. Of those people, about 100 reside in Lincoln County.

“Our crews are working diligently to get the power back on,” Shell said. “We had contract crews working with our own out at six this morning. We’ve pulled even more from Birmingham at lunch time.”

Shell said Magnolia Electric Power did not have a restoration time for the remaining customers without power because the crews are finding more and more lines on the ground.

Fewer than 100 Entergy customers in Lincoln and Copiah counties remained without power Tuesday evening, according to the Entergy Mississippi website.

Approximately 1,100 of those reside in Wesson.

Entergy reported that approximately 5,000 customers were without power in the two counties during the storm.

Southwest Mississippi Electric Power reported about 650 customers still without power in both counties late Tuesday.

Copiah-Lincoln Community College offices on the Wesson campus will reopen today.

In Lawrence County, trees were reported down near Monticello and in the western and southern parts of the county.

The powerful storm system not only caused damage in Southwest Mississippi, but across the south.

The line of severe thunderstorms spawned several possible tornadoes, and the threat continued into early Tuesday for southern Alabama, southwest Georgia and the Florida Panhandle.

Four people were killed Monday evening when a tree fell on their mobile home in Rehobeth, Alabama, said Kris Ware, a spokeswoman for the Dothan Houston County Emergency Management Agency.

Authorities reported another death as the result of strong storms in Georgia.

Albany, Georgia, Fire Chief Ron Rowe said Tuesday that he did not have any details about exactly how the woman was killed. Her identity has not been released.

In Louisiana, there was also relatively serious damage in the southwestern parishes of Beauregard and Allen, including the town of Reeves. Some wind damage was also reported in Houston and throughout East Texas.

Though Arkansas had also been included in warnings, there was only a stray report of hail in Jackson County in the northeast part of the state.

No other storms are predicted this week.

“The temperature will drop Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A wintery mix is predicted for Friday afternoon. We are still assessing how cold it will be, but it is looking like it will stay in the 20s and 30s throughout those three days,” Edmonston said.