Tornado debris found miles away

By Eileen Bailey

Daily Journal

Ralph Hanskiewicz was disking his pumpkin field, 11 miles west of New Albany, Thursday when he noticed a check on the ground.

He got down from the tractor, picked up the check and put it in his pocket.

"I noticed that it had Greenwood on it but had no idea how it got there," he said.

When he returned home he pulled out the check and called the name on the top. It was from Sims Pest Control in Greenwood, an estimated 90 miles away.

What the owner of R/B Acres discovered was that the check, in pristine condition, had been stored in Robert Sims' business before it was demolished Feb. 24 by a tornado with winds in excess of 155 miles per hour.

"It was totally untouched," Hanskiewicz said. "It is one of the coolest things."

"You can't imagine how high things travel," he said.

Hanskiewicz said he believes the check traveled to his farm via a tornadic storm system that moved from Greenwood to Calhoun County up through Pontotoc into Lee and Prentiss counties before dying out. But the plot thickens: Hanskiewicz's home and farm are not near the storm's site.

"We were nowhere near it," he said.

Hanskiewicz said he plans to mail the check, written in 1981 to the U.S. Postal Service, back to Sims.

Surviving the storm

Sims was home alone the night the tornado began its deadly path of destruction that killed six in Pontotoc and injured many along the way. He had just gone into his bedroom to take a break from working on his taxes.

"I knew bad weather was coming but hadn't heard anything," he said.

About the time the storm hit, Sims said his miniature Schnauzer, Max, bolted from the bedroom to another bedroom in the back part of the house. A concerned Sims got up and followed. When he got to the back bedroom the tornado struck his home east of Greenwood off Mississippi Highway 82.

The bed he had been in was crushed under bricks and a massive tree. The 36-by-36 building he used as his business was gone, along with another building, a barn and extensive damage was done to his home. "The insurance company totaled the house," he said.

"It is by the grace of God that I am here," he said.

Disbelief

Sims said he could not believe it when Hanskiewicz called. Sims also received a call from a man who was in the woods near Tupelo scouting out a place to turkey hunt. The man also found items from Sims' business.

"I just didn't think it would go that far," he said. "That just goes to show you there is a world of compassionate people out there."

This was not the only instance of Northeast Mississippi residents finding belongings of people in the path of the tornado.

Clarice Suitor and her husband, Bobby, were walking together on Feb. 25 in their field three miles south of Biggersville in the Hinkle community of Alcorn County when they found half of a bank statement.

Suitor said the statement was from 1939 and belonged to Dupree Seale of Pontotoc. Two days later, Suitor said her husband found the other half of the statement.

Dupree Seale, who died in 1970, is the father of Betty Clowers, who was killed in the tornado, along with her son, Donnie, 40.

Clowers, 65, and her son, along with neighbor, Peggy Hester, 72, were in Clowers' Tenth Street home when the tornado hit, leveling much of the neighborhood. Also killed on Tenth Street was Michael Seale, 36, son of Johnny Seale.

The bank statement would have been in the home occupied by Michael Seale and the one-time home of Dupree and Mary Edna Seale.

"It is amazing," he said. "They found a check in Hernando that my sister wrote in 1988 to Essex Cable Company."

The check Clowers wrote was returned to Seale by someone in Hernando.

Seale and his family were hardest hit by the tornado.

"I appreciate it a whole lot," he said. "I have had it tough. I lost my sister, my son, a nephew and had four houses demolished. I handle it the best I can."

Suitor has since laminated the bank statement.

"It was really a shock to find it. We are about 60 miles away from Pontotoc," she said.

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