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Twisters twice: Town gets hit six months later

A twister that ripped through a Mississippi town brought further misery to an area already decimated by a line of tornadoes that killed 12 people in April.
Clarence Taylor
With a blue tarp covering damage to his roof, Clarence Taylor of Yazoo City, Miss., laments the latest damage caused by a possible twister Monday.Rogelio V. Solis / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Clarence Taylor slipped on a pair of gloves Tuesday and went to work cleaning up damage from the tornado that tore through his hometown. He knows the drill — another twister devastated the area in April, leaving a path of destruction nearly a mile wide and killing a dozen people.

No one died in the latest storms, though 15 people were hurt in Mississippi and buildings were badly damaged there and in Louisiana late Monday. Schools were closed in Alabama and tornado watches were posted in Tennessee and parts of North and South Carolina on Tuesday as the storms moved east.

In Yazoo City, the 63-year-old Taylor said Battle Street, where he has lived most of his life, looked like a war zone after the 125-mph tornado touched down.

He paused to take a slow drag off a cigarette and pointed to power lines hanging from broken poles and twisted pieces of tin scattered about from a nearby business. The winds blew off a tarp he had put on his roof to cover damage from the April storm.

"This is the second time it dropped down on this street in just six months," Taylor said. "I've been through it, man."

Taylor said it sounded like a bomb and he bolted down the street to check on his 93-year-old mother a few doors away. The wind blew him down, but he made it to her house and found her unhurt.

"I'm blessed, man. I'm blessed," Taylor said.

Yazoo City, an hour drive north of Jackson, has seen its share of disasters. Much of the town burned in 1904. Main Street was rebuilt with two- and three-story brick buildings and got a facelift during the filming of the 2000 movie "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?"

One of the buildings featured in the movie, Grace Hardware, was heavily damaged by the storms and thick sheet metal that tore from its facade battered nearby businesses.

Water was still dripping from the ceiling Tuesday as friends of owner Susan Cartwright Guion helped load merchandise onto a truck. Though it's called a hardware store, the owners make custom furniture and sell antiques and art.

"It's been here a long, long time, but now it has no roof and we have no insurance," Guion said.

A few blocks away, a large tree on the courthouse lawn was uprooted, falling between the two story white building and a war memorial for local veterans. An American flag and the pole from which it hung were twisted among the broken branches.

A few shingles blew off the courthouse and some windows were blown out, but the building was otherwise unscathed.

"We're just in tornado alley," said John Richardson, a court bailiff and reserve officer with the Yazoo County Sheriff's Department. More than 200 homes in Yazoo City were damaged or destroyed in the April tornado. "We come out good on this one compared to the last one."

Gov. Haley Barbour, who is from Yazoo City, and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant both assessed damage in the town, which sits where the foothills of Mississippi meet the vast, flat farmlands of the Mississippi Delta.

"I think what you've got here is storm fatigue," Bryant said. "It's very frightening to people."

At least 24 businesses were damaged in Yazoo City, Bryant said, though authorities were still working to quantify the damage.

"Lord, we can't get over one tornado before we have another one," said John Anderson, who sat at the counter of his jewelry store as neighboring business owners picked up debris and tried to salvage merchandise. Anderson said he's been lucky — his business escaped major damage in both storms — but the twisters still take an emotional toll.

"It makes it kind of scary," Anderson said. "It makes you wonder if you should move from here and start over somewhere else."

In central Louisiana, a tornado destroyed a brick house and damaged three other homes near the town of Atlanta as a front with thunderstorms moved across the region from Monday into Tuesday. No one was hurt, the Winn Parish sheriff's office said.

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway near New Orleans was closed for a time because of high winds. About 1,300 people in the city's central business district lost power, but it has since been restored.

Winds gusting to near hurricane-force in Alabama knocked down trees and prompted some schools to cancel or delay classes.

Alabama emergency management officials said a possible tornado toppled trees and power lines in Lamar County near the Mississippi line Tuesday morning, and winds estimated at near 70 mph blew a vehicle off the road near Cordova in Walker County.

In Starkville, Miss., home to Mississippi State University, seven people were hurt when storms, including a possible tornado, tore through the area. Oktibbeha County Coroner Michael Hunt said all were admitted to a hospital but later released.

Much of the damage occurred on the south side of Starkville, where dozens of homes were damaged in the Pines mobile home park, said Sgt. Tom Roberson of the Starkville Police Department.

A mobile home is flipped over in the middle of the road at the The Pines mobile home park after severe weather came through Monday night in Starkville Miss.  Tuesday Nov.  30, 2010. (AP Photo/ Kerry Smith)
A mobile home is flipped over in the middle of the road at the The Pines mobile home park after severe weather came through Monday night in Starkville Miss. Tuesday Nov. 30, 2010. (AP Photo/ Kerry Smith)Kerry Smith / FR 170134

Several units were overturned, trash cans, branches, porches and other debris lined the streets and lots, and residents wandered early Tuesday as officers patrolled the area. Police only allowed residents back in to gather clothes and other belongings.

In Monroe County, Sheriff Andy Hood said authorities believe a tornado touched down north of Aberdeen about 11:30 p.m. Monday.

Hood said eight people were taken to the emergency room and one was transferred to a Memphis hospital. Other injuries were not life-threatening, he said.