LEE COUNTY • Severe storms – including at least one tornado – cut a pathway of damage in the Northeast Mississippi area late Monday afternoon, damaging homes and downing trees.

In Lee County, the National Weather Service confirmed a tornado on the ground around 4 p.m. moving between Guntown and Baldwyn.

Lighthouse Baptist Church on County Road 911 was destroyed. Nearby, multiple homes in a subdivision on Colt Lane were severely damaged.

Access to the subdivision was limited Monday evening, but state Sen. Chad McMahn, R-Guntown, toured the area and posted a statement on social media, estimating about 35 homes suffered damage.

Carl Estes, the pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church, searched through debris with his family and church members as the day’s light faded – searching for books, pictures, valuables or anything else that survived.

No one was at the church building when the tornado passed through. Estes said the plan is to salvage anything possible and eventually rebuild.

Lighthouse Baptist member Shane Keith was tuned in to the local news as Monday afternoon’s storms passed through. He saw that there was a tornado near his church and drove out to see if there was any damage.

Only the building’s foundation was intact when he arrived, with mangled walls and roof lying alongside metal beams. The pew Keith sat on during Sunday’s service was gone with all the others, strewn across the side of the hill where the church once sat.

“I wanted to cry,” Keith said. “I really did. I mean, I just got baptized last year and this means a lot to me, this place right here.”

He added, “It’s in the Lord’s hands now.”

Lee County Emergency Management Director Lee Bowdry was conducting an initial assessment of the damage Monday evening, but said he will likely not have an accurate count of damaged structures until Tuesday.

The Red Cross will open an emergency shelter at the Guntown Community Center, Bowdry said.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, the North Mississippi Medical Center emergency department had seen one person with minor storm-related injuries. That patient was able to drive to the hospital for treatment, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Within the wider Northeast Mississippi area, the brunt of the storm’s impact was also felt in Union County, especially around the community of Alpine.

Union County Emergency Management Director Curt Clayton said there was significant damage in Union County from the storm, including damaged structures, downed power lines and trees, and blocked roads, including Highway 9.

Most of the damage was around Highway 9 and County Road 174, which is the Alpine area.

According to Clayton, there may have been one minor injury involving someone’s leg.

The tornado damage on Monday comes as the area, including Lee County continues recovery from damage in late October connected with the remnants of Tropical Storm Olga.

Michaela Morris of the Daily Journal and Josh Mitchell of the New Albany Gazette contributed to this report.

Twitter: @JLgrindin

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