Those phone calls that arrive in the wee hours of the morning are usually never good. More often than not, the person on the other end of the line is offering up bad news of some sort.
Such was the case Saturday, sometime between 4:30 and 5 a.m.
“We survived the tornado,” wife Krista’s cousin said matter-of-factly.
“What!” Krista exclaimed.
Krista’s Aunt Edna Woods and cousin Kim Young live about 6 miles east of Marks in the Locke Station community of Quitman County. This little area of the north Delta has taken many weather-related hits over the years, mostly in the form of flooding.
Edna and Kim have seen their share of high water. There have been many times when they have had to park their cars on the elevated road and take a boat to the front porch of their house, or build tall walkways out of cinder blocks and boards. Thankfully, their house was so high off the ground that it never took on water.
Mother Nature dealt a more critical blow last weekend.
As a line of severe thunderstorms rolled through Mississippi early Saturday, one storm with vicious winds ripped the roof from a large section of Edna and Kim’s home. Several massive old trees were uprooted on every side of the house. One crashed through the ceiling of the living room.
After Kim’s call, Krista and I dressed quickly and headed out in different directions — she for the Delta and I to Batesville to buy plastic storage bins, flashlights, batteries, etc.
Traveling westward from Batesville on Highway 6, several miles due northeast of Edna and Kim’s house, I began to see the signs of damage: downed trees, shingles missing from houses, two pivot irrigation systems overturned and large sheets of tin, pieces of insulation, scraps of paper and other items strewn across a farm field where they had been driven by the wind.
Rounding a curve on the country road that leads to the Woods residence, I saw several damaged homes. Still, nothing prepared me for what I would see when I arrived.
It was reminiscent of a scene from a movie war zone.
The house was rendered uninhabitable, a total loss. It was very sad to see.
This had been the setting of hundreds of large family gatherings to celebrate birthdays, holidays, family reunions and high school graduations. Countless bonfires, pool parties and fireworks shows occurred here. Halloween hayrides; camping trips; family vacations; and motorcycle, golf cart, lawn mower, go-cart and ATV excursions were launched from here.
It was sad to see the ruins of a place where so much happiness, joy and love — and, yes, sadness — had been shared for decades.
However, it was wonderful to find that Edna and Kim, distraught though they were, had suffered not so much as a scratch from the damage caused by the tornado or straight-line winds. (The National Weather Service will make a determination as to the type of storm it was.)
Family and friends arrived Saturday and Sunday to offer moral support and a hand.
As the rain continued to fall Saturday, exposed ceilings weakened and rainwater poured or dripped in. Tarps would be placed on the structure, but the first order of business — after removing the tree from the living room and a mountain of debris from the front door area — was to salvage items of intrinsic or sentimental value, and precious family mementos that no homeowners insurance policy could replace.
Framed and loose photos, photo albums, family videos and the like were carefully placed in plastic bins and whisked out of harm’s way.
It was a familiar scene elsewhere in Quitman and other counties, including Tallahatchie. The town of Sumner and the Brazil community apparently were hit hardest in our county. Thankfully, there were no reports of injuries in Tallahatchie.
Sumner, Tutwiler, Webb and the Rome community all lost power — some for more than three days — and as of this writing Tuesday, Tutwiler and parts of Sumner still had no electrical service.
In storm-hit areas, people began picking up the pieces on Saturday. Neighbors helped neighbors, and volunteers offered assistance to overwhelmed local government workers for duties like clearing fallen trees that were blocking streets and roads.
We suspect everyone found a way to carry on.
Likewise, Edna and Kim are resilient. Time and again they have seen floodwaters damage or destroy their property, they have experienced heartache with both having lost their husbands in recent years, and now their home is in ruins.
Through it all, they continue to maintain a good attitude, knowing how blessed they are to have each other and such a loving and supportive network of family and friends. They have shed tears — who wouldn’t! — but they continue to find ways to smile through the tears.
As has been said, after every storm comes a rainbow.