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'I don't even recognize my neighborhood anymore': Calhoun City residents impacted by possible tornado damage

CALHOUN CITY • Martha Edmond and her husband, T.C., were huddled in the hallway of their Washington Street home in Calhoun City when what's believed to be a tornado came through.

PHOTOS: Storm tears through Calhoun City

It was 8:30 p.m. on Sunday night, and Edmond remembers the storm taking less than 10 minutes to pass through the small town.

“It happened so fast and so quick, but all lives were safe ... (we) didn’t lose any lives, thank the Lord,” Edmond said.

The Edmonds' home only sustained relatively minor damage in the storm, all of it confined to the roof. A tree branch punctured a hole in their bedroom ceiling, causing water to pour inside. All things considered, it could have been much worse. 

Since living in Calhoun City since 1989, she said she'd never seen anything like it in her area.

"I don't even recognize my neighborhood anymore," she said.

On Monday morning, hours after the storm, residents and emergency personnel assessed the damage mainly concentrated along the stretch from Veterans Avenue to South Main Street.

Damage hit neighborhoods in the blocks between Johnson Avenue and Gore Avenue. Custom Metal Fabrication, a welding factory that makes metal parts, saw two of their locations hit, with portions of annex A's roof either collapsed inward or blown off entirely. Employees were busy trying to clear the building, Monday afternoon.

Trees caused most of the damage for residents. At least a half dozen homes and an apartment complex had downed trees atop them, and several cars showed visible damage. Natchez Trace Electric Power Association and Atmos Energy crews were out clearing debris, fixing power lines, and slowly working through the aftermath of the potentially tornadic storm.

Edmond's neighbor, Adell Shaw, was sitting on her living room couch watching the news when the lights flickered. She heard the sharp cracking of wood — the sounds of trees and a light pole snapping. She initially thought a tree hat hit her home, but her home only sustained a bit of roof and window shutters damage. However, she noticed a few of her neighbors' homes had trees fallen on top of them.

“I went out there this morning,” Shaw said. “When I went out there and looked at (my neighbor’s) house, she couldn’t even get in.”

Belinda Dye narrowly missed the storm by a few minutes. She left her Oakwood Apartments building at 8:29 p.m. to go to Derma, and saw what she initially thought was lightning. Later, she realized what she saw was likely power lines snapping. Her own apartment building was mainly undamaged, minus some shingling blowing off, but a tree did fall in the parking lot.

It landed where she had been parked just minutes before.

“I’m just glad we got out of the parking lot . . . where the tree fell, we would have been right there. We were blessed to get out of the way,” Dye said. “It’s a million wonders that tree didn’t just go right over.”

Myesha Bean was at her grandmother's Vardaman residence with her children when the tornado hit. She just narrowly missed being home when a tree fell on top of her white car and punctured her apartment window at Oakwood Apartments, blocking off much of the parking lot and apartment entrances at her building.

“I’m so happy I wasn’t at home," Bean said. "I would have panicked. I was about to come to Calhoun City, but it started raining and (my grandmother) wouldn’t let me and my kids leave.”

Several of her family members, who also lived in the same neighborhood, were home when the catastrophic storm hit. They hid in their closets, Bean said. A tree fell on top of the home of her children's grandmother and damaged a few relatives’ cars.

While she's grateful she wasn't home and that her second car was spared, Bean said she is still reeling from the shock of the storm.

“I don’t know what to do, so I sit here and look," Bean said. "I’m just so shocked."

Tupelo leaders report extensive damage, but no injuries from Sunday storm

TUPELO • Leaders in Mayor Jason Shelton’s administration on Monday morning reported that a Sunday night tornado caused severe damage in portions of east Tupelo, but caused no major injuries.

“We were very fortunate this time,” Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker said.

PHOTOS: Tornado damages homes, power lines in Tupelo

Walker, who serves as the city’s emergency response officer, said at a damage assessment briefing that the city’s emergency responders around 10:07 p.m. last night began conducting damage assessments to most of the areas around town and responding to emergency calls.

Walker said that when emergency responders were making damage assessments, they checked on residents and helped in almost every way they legally could. 

Most of the major damage from the storm occurred around the Elvis Presley Drive area, Oakview Drive and portions of Green Street. 

Shelton at the meeting said officials from North Mississippi Medical Center reported that the facility did not treat anyone in its emergency room with injuries related to the tornado.

Johnny Timmons, the director of Tupelo Water & Light, said around 1,000 homes were without power on Sunday night, and that three power substations were temporarily knocked out.

“About two to three hours hours later, though, we had 75% of those homes back on,” Timmons said.

Timmons said approximately 50 homes without power remained by Monday morning, but those represent more severe problems where an electric meter was broken or a similar issue. 

Chuck Williams, director of the city’s public works department, said all the city’s roads had been cleared of debris by late Monday morning, except Oakview Drive.

Public works employees will try to remove storm debris that fell in residents yards, but residents must push the debris to the curb in order for the employees to pick it up.

Eight Days of Hope, a faith-based nonprofit organization, announced on social media they were organizing a volunteer response effort to aid people whose homes sustained damage to the tornado.

The organization said any Tupelo residents need assistance in clearing storm damage should email rapidresponse@eightdaysofhope.com for assistance.

Both Shelton and the Lee County Board of Supervisors issued emergency proclamations in response to the storm damage, although most of the damage appears to be confined to the Tupelo area.

Most of the county supervisors reported minimal damage in the county, but said they would use equipment to aid surrounding counties, such as Calhoun County, if needed.

Tornado leaves path of destruction

TUPELO • A severe storm that tracked through at least five counties Sunday night caused widespread damage in Calhoun City and Tupelo.

PHOTOS: Tornado damages homes, power lines in Tupelo

The National Weather Service dispatched two survey teams from their Memphis office, Monday, to determine if the damages were caused by straight line winds or a tornado. One team started in Calhoun County and followed the path to the northeast. The second team started in Itawamba County and back tracked the damage to the southwest. If there is evidence of rotation, they will assign the tornado a strength level.

The path of destruction began in Calhoun City after 9 p.m. Aerial photos by the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office showed at least one building on South Main Street was destroyed. The roof was ripped off and debris was scattered throughout the area,

Calhoun County Sheriff Greg Pollan said light poles were snapped and thee were trees on cars and houses. He said there were no reports "at this time," and he was asking people to stay off the roads and give emergency personnel time to open the roads.

The storms left about 1,500 houses without power in Calhoun County Sunday night. Natchez Trace Electric Power Association crews restored power to the bulk of the homes by Monday morning. According to Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, replacing broken poles delayed the remaining 400 houses.

The storm left Calhoun County and travelled through the northwest corner of Chickasaw County but did not cause any appreciable storm damage, said Chickasaw County Sheriff James Myers.

That was not the case when the storm rolled into Pontotoc County.

"We had some damage in the Black Zion community, off Kings Highway," said Pontotoc County EMA director Allen Bain. "It is one the Lee County line and it looks like it was the start of the storm that went into Tupelo."

He said it did not appear a tornado actually touched down in the eastern Pontotoc County community.

"We had six homes damages and on one mobile home, the roof was completely gone," Bain said. "Several metal out buildings and garages were moved off their foundations or destroyed. There are a lot of trees down and Beagle Club Road is still closed (Monday morning)."

The storm caused a good bit of damage as it went through Tupelo, leaving downed trees and roofs damaged from the southwest near Tupelo High School, through the center of town and especially in the northeast area near Veterans Boulevard and Interstate 22.

Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker said his crews started getting calls at 10:07 p.m. Over the next four hours, firefighters responded to everything from power lines on the ground to property damage to trees in the roads and one gas leak, caused by an uprooted tree,

"Most of the damage seemed to be straight line or rotational, that took down some trees or pulled shingles or siding off houses," Walker said. "I don't know if it actually touched down but it got down to the tree top and roof top level in several places, especially on Elvis Presley and Oakview,

There was no significant damage as storms passed through the northwestern corner of Itawamba County. Director of Emergency Operations Patrick Homan said there were some reports of minor damage and downed trees.

“There were some trees and power lines down and in one case some tin blown off a building in the Ratliff area," Homan said. "Also, there were trees down in the Kirkville area, but other than that we were spared. We were very lucky.”

Itawamba County Times Managing Editor Teresa Blake contributed to this story.