On Tuesday the smell of fresh-cut pine had nothing to do with the impending Christmas holidays, but rather a fast-moving storm that caused extensive damage in the Sumrall area Monday night. It was much like Sumrall residents had experienced five years ago when a storm front moved through the area at Christmastime causing extensive damage.
Lamar County workers, Mississippi Power and volunteers helped homeowners along Mississippi 589 in Sumrall and across town along Hwy. 42 start putting the pieces of their homes and property back together after the storm front caused widespread damage.
The home of Sharon and Jim Ray, which once looked out on a peaceful lake setting surrounded by trees looked like a war zone on Tuesday. Jim Ray was home alone when the storm, which many claim to be a tornado, but hasn’t been designated as such by the National Weather Service, approached from the west and as Jim says, “was gone in an instant.”
Jim, who was out on the front porch watching the weather, said he could actually see the storm approaching.
“As it got closer I headed inside to the safe room about the same time my phone alert from the National Weather Service went off,” he said.
“It came through and went. It was a loud roar that lasted just seconds. The storm was moving so fast that there was a loud road and then just silence.”
Most of the trees which bordered the small lake, about 10 or so, now littered the lake along with pieces of tin, plastic and other debris that had blown from parts unknown.
Jim said he thought the pieces of tin came from across the road.
“I’ve got debris that I think came from the American Legion, across the street and down the hill,” he said.
Other damage to the property included broken or cracked windows in the house, part of the shed is missing, the sheetrock and framing around the French doors on the back of the house are cracked from where the storm’s vacuum sucked the doors open. The chimney is damaged, as is the roof, and the back porch flew over the house and now lay in a heap in the front yard. A small Bobcat moved debris from the side of the house where volunteers used chainsaws to make large pieces of trees more manageable.
Jim said as soon as the storm passed friends and neighbors brought tarps to help cover the damaged portions of the roof before the heavy rains fell.
“There is patio furniture, part of the fence and other debris and junk in the pool,” Sharon said.
“Unless there is something hidden, the damage is not real extensive,” Jim said.
While Sharon had been planning to do some landscaping in the spring, Mother Nature beat her to the punch.
“I always threatened to cut those trees down,” Jim said, “but the good Lord took care of our landscaping for us.”
The family is just glad there were no casualties as a result of the storm. Some of the residents of the group home across the street, which is run by Ellisville State School, were carried to the hospital with minor injuries.
“Everybody has been so nice,” Jim said. “We’ve had friends with lawn care services come by to offer their help. “And people have brought food and offered their help in other ways,” Sharon said.
On the other side of town, the girls’ softball complex was in shambles with a wall in the field house down, fencing gone, and large metal poles supporting the backstops bent at 90-degree angles at ground level.
Large pieces of wood from the facility next door pierced the sides of the field house.
Sumrall High School athletic director Anita Sumrall is optimistic about getting everything put back tighter.
“The Lamar County school district’s facilities manager, Dennis Steele, was onsite assessing damage and taking photos this morning,” she said.
Sumrall said the indoor batting cage and girls’ locker room is going to need major, major repairs, with the locker room, offices and other areas needing to be replaced. Sumrall said they have been tasked with coming up with a list of everything missing or damaged.
In addition to damage at the fieldhouse, which sits on a hill overlooking the softball complex, bleachers were tossed around like toys. Sumrall believes one set of bleachers might be salvageable with a little work, but another set was picked up and thrown on top of the poles that held up the backstop netting.
“The poles pierced the bleachers on the visitors side and flipped them on the backstop and another set of bleachers,” she said.
The concession stand received a small about of damage, but efforts were being made to get it covered to prevent further damage in the case of any more rain.
Sumrall’s softball season will start at the end of January with practice and the team is slated to hold its Classic Tournament Feb. 22
“Right now we are going to shoot to be able to play,” Sumrall said. “The girls may not be able to have a locker room at that time and may have to use the restrooms to change.”
“I feel like with the district having people out here already that we can begin repair work very soon.”
Sumrall said it was very fortunate that was no was at the facility at the time. The coach had met just two hours earlier at the field house to discuss some cabinet work they were going to have done, but Sumrall said they had left a couple of hours before the storm hit.
Sumrall said she doesn’t know if fundraisers will be required to help put the facility back together. “Until the damage is fully assessed and insurance coverage is applied, we won’t know. But I’m sure if we need to do some (fundraisers), our coaches, team and booster club, as well as others will help out. We can count on that.”