Sumner storm damage

Joe Fennell’s destroyed tractor shed on his Minter City farmland is shown Monday.

One of the hardest-hit areas of the severe thunderstorm that raked across the Delta Saturday morning was the town of Sumner.

High-force winds snapped trees and utility poles like twigs, blew the roofs off numerous houses, and whisked belongings miles from their properties.

On Monday, some of the 300 residents in the Tallahatchie County town were still raking up debris, using chain saws to cut fallen trunks in half to make them easier to move, and waiting for power to be restored.

Sumner storm damage

Joe Fennell observes the damage on his farm in Sumner.

Joe Fennell owns two farms  — one in Sumner and one a few miles south in Minter City — that were both in the storm’s path.

“The craziest thing was getting hit in both places,” he said.

Fennell has been a farmer in the Delta all his life, but he has never been through anything like this.

At the storm’s crescendo, Fennell said that he and his wife took shelter in the shower, but by the time they had gotten there, the storm had passed.

“It was so fast,” Fennell said. “Once I heard those trees popping outside, I looked at my wife and said, ‘We’ve got to go.’”

Fennell said that he never felt scared during the storm but that he didn’t know the extent of the damage until daybreak.

One of Fennell’s silos on his property in Minter City was dented in. A tractor shed was ripped apart and scattered everywhere nearby.

The same happened to the tractor shed on his Sumner property. There were things on his farm that he said he “didn’t even know” where they might have blown.

Sumner storm damage

This weekend’s storm damaged the tractor shed on Joe Fennell’s farm in Sumner.

Fennell estimates that he suffered at least $500,000 in damage, which he expects to be covered by insurance.

“We’ll be fine in that regard. It’s just one of those things you have to do,” Fennell said on rebuilding and getting his properties back to normal.

He said he was grateful that the storm came during the annual winter lull in the farming season.

Maude Schuyler Clay, a nationally renowned photographer who lives in Sumner, evacuated to her daughter’s home in Oxford to get to power and “civilization.”

“We were lucky,” Clay said in a text message. “Only a few blown-out windows on the first floor, fences down, and trees toppled.”

Sumner storm damage

Fallen trees on Cassidy Street in Sumner are shown Monday.

She said, “We were boarding up windows during the worst of it amidst broken glass and raging wind and rain.”

Chester Dunavent stood outside gathering debris from his home on Monday. He said that he still has some rooms flooded. He said, however, that the city has been quick with helping him recover.

“A tree broke my gas meter, and I didn’t know it. People were smelling gas on back,” he said, gesturing to his back yard. “The town came over here ... right after it happened and cut it off, and then Centerpoint Energy had it fixed within an hour.”

Sumner storm damage

A telephone pole was snapped in half by Saturday’s storm.

Larry Fairlee said his home has been without power since around 3:15 a.m. Saturday. While waiting for the electricity to come back on, he has been helping around the community to clean up the damage.

“We’re just getting some of these limbs up and trying to get some of this mess out of here,” Fairlee said, as he hooked up a trailer to the back of a truck to haul debris.

Residents said that they’ve been told to expect power to be restored by Tuesday afternoon.

Even though some people’s lives have been turned upside down, there were still silver linings to be found in the wreckage: dogs playing happily on the streets, neighbors laughing with each other as they picked up fallen branches, and a community coming together to help rebuild.

Sumner storm damage

A separated pier in water built up in Sumner is shown Monday after the storm on Saturday.

Contact Kerrigan Herret at 581-7233 or

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