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 six wind-related deaths in Alabama and Louisiana.
Other parts of the Delta got it much worse than Leflore County, with Cleveland and Greenville both suffering widespread damage, and Sumner still without power two days after the storm blew through that Tallahatchie County town.
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 completed their post-storm assessment. The weather service, which had two teams working the region on Monday, confirmed three tornadoes had touched down shortly before 3 a.m. Saturday in Ashley County, Arkansas, about 70 miles west of Greenville.
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 thunderstorm 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.
A couple of hundred yards away on County Road 544 from Palmertree’s trailer, his mother’s home was also heavily damaged. In all, four homes in Minter City were damaged by the storm, according to Fred Randle, Leflore County’s emergency management director. Several utility poles were snapped, and sheets of tin and other metal were scattered around muddy, dormant fields.
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, and some residents were without water for about seven hours until the electricity to a pumping station could be restored. “It was a blessing that there were no injuries in all of this,” said North Carrollton Mayor Ken Strachan.
Greenwood, other than the heavy rain and scattered power outages, was largely spared by the storm.
“I feel fortunate, especially after I talked with the mayor of Greenville,” Greenwood Mayor Carolyn McAdams said on Saturday.
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.
Rain returned to the area Monday and is expected to continue off and on until the weekend. Leflore County remains under a flood warning until 6 a.m. Wednesday.
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.
Statewide, Mississippi had more than 61,000 power outages at midday Saturday, according to the PowerOutage.US website, which tracks outages. That number was down to 8,700 by Monday afternoon.
Delta Electric Power Association, which is not tracked by the website, had 13,000 customers without power at the height of the storm, said David O’Bryan, general manager of the 13-county cooperative that is headquartered in Greenwood. By Monday afternoon, that number was down to 1,000, primarily in Washington and Bolivar counties.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience as we try to restore power,” O’Bryan said. “We also appreciate the outside crews that are providing assistance to our crews.”
Also Monday, North Greenwood Baptist Church was gearing up to be the site of a portable kitchen, from which meals will be prepared for Delta residents displaced by the storm and disaster relief workers who are helping them.
Dr. Jim Phillips, the church’s pastor, said he expected six to 10 volunteers from the Mississippi Baptist Convention’s disaster relief ministry to begin preparing meals by Tuesday morning. He said the American Red Cross has requested 500 to 1,000 meals a day.
As for Palmertree, he has temporarily moved into his mother’s house, whose roof is covered by a tarpaulin where the shingles were blown away. He was still waiting on Monday afternoon for an insurance adjuster to arrive. Palmertree expects his trailer to be considered a total loss.
He feels compelled to stay nearby.
“I’m afraid to leave here,” he said. “You never know. When the criminal element knows you’re not around, they come and ransack your place.”
•Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.