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Minter City couple get out of mobile home in time

Leflore County largely spared by storm that claims at least seven lives across the South

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Saturday, Jan. 11 storm No. 1

Bill Palmertree had only been out of his Minter City mobile home for seconds before high winds early Saturday morning knocked it off its moorings.

“It was a scary situation,” he said.

Minter City was the locus for much of the damage in Leflore County resulting from a severe storm that swept across the U.S. South, producing at least seven deaths.

Other parts of the Delta got it much worse than Leflore County, with Cleveland and Greenville both reporting widespread damage, including in the downtown Greenville area.

Shane Sanders, whose tree-cutting crew was removing a downed oak Saturday morning in the 400 block of Grand Boulevard in Greenwood, said that Sumner had also been hit hard. He said that numerous trees and power lines were down in that Tallahatchie County town and a box car had been turned over by the high winds.

“I think a tornado touched down at a certain spot. It had to to be that bad,” Sanders said.

Saturday, Jan. 11 storm No. 3

Jamie Forest, foreground, rakes up the last of the limbs as a crew from Shane Sanders Tree Service finishes removing an oak tree that had fallen Saturday in the 400 block of Grand Boulevard in Greenwood.

Chad Entremont, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, said “some of the damage could be associated with tornadoes” in the Delta, but that authorities would not know for sure until they conducted their post-storm assessment.

Palmertree said he didn’t know if what hit his three-bedroom mobile home was a tornado or straight-line winds, but whichever it was, it was fierce. It’s been estimated the winds were hitting 75 to 80 miles per hour when the storm intensified between 4:30 and 5 a.m.

Palmertree, a 68-year-old semi-retired worker at a rice-processing plant, said he had been up at the time, monitoring the storm on TV. After hearing that it was near Cleveland and Ruleville, he decided he and a lady friend needed to evacuate from the trailer.

They headed for his pickup truck parked outside.

“I didn’t have anywhere else to go,” Palmertree said.

The friend got in on the passenger side, but she couldn’t close the truck’s door because of the wind, so Palmertree came around to help.

“I pushed and pushed and pushed, and it blew me back. I finally got it closed,” he said.

They watched from inside the pickup as the winds lifted the mobile home off its foundation, tilted it back and set it down at a 30-degree angle.

Not far away, several utility poles were snapped, and sheets of tin and other metal were scattered around muddy, dormant fields.

Saturday, Jan. 11 storm No. 2

Pieces of tin and other metal lie strewn around dormant fields in Minter City following Saturday’s storm.

Palmertree’s home was one of four damaged in Minter City by the storm, according to Fred Randle, Leflore County’s emergency management director.

Randle said that there were scattered reports of other damage in the county, but no one was injured and no homes were flooded. According to the National Weather Service, 3 inches of rain was measured at Greenwood-Leflore Airport, most of it falling after 3 a.m. In Carroll County, trees and power lines were reported down around North Carrollton.

Greenwood, other than the heavy rain and scattered power outages, was largely spared by the storm, said Mayor Carolyn McAdams.

“I feel fortunate, especially after I talked with the mayor of Greenville,” she said.

McAdams asked residents to be mindful of leaves clogging up drainage ditches and increasing the risk of flooding. She said that city crews had been out on Friday in advance of the storm trying to address the areas most prone to flash flooding, but there’s only so much they can do.

“We cannot go to every ditch in the city of Greenwood before a storm hits,” she said.

The area remains under a flood warning until almost 6 p.m. Sunday.

Greenwood Utilities reported several hundred customers without power Saturday morning, most of them in southeast Greenwood after a circuit went out. Power was restored completely before noon, said Mike Nix, vice president of electric operations.

Saturday, Jan. 11 storm No. 4

Utility poles, snapped in two by Saturday morning’s high winds, lie across a muddy turn row in Minter City. 

Statewide, Mississippi had more than 61,000 power outages at midday Saturday, The Associated Press reported. Entergy Mississippi said at the outage peak, it had more than 11,000 customers impacted in Washington and Bolivar counties alone.

As for Palmertree, while he surveyed the damage to his home Saturday, he was contemplating where he would spend the night, expecting that he would have to get a motel room.

“It looks like I’m homeless till I get this all fixed back,” he said.

Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or tkalich@gwcommonwealth.com.

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