Death toll in Louisville rises to 10
Wednesday, May 7, 2014 1:00 AM
The powerful EF-4 tornado that tore a near mile-wide path of destruction for 34.3 miles through Leake, Neshoba, Attala and Winston counties last week claimed 10 lives.
The tornado, with winds up to 185 mph, ripped a path across northeast Leake, the corners of Attala and Neshoba counties and through the heart of Winston County where the city of Louisville was especially hit hard. Five neighborhoods were destroyed and the Winston hospital took a direct hit.
No injuries were reported in Neshoba County, although several structures were damaged.
Many of the injured in Winston were brought by ambulance to Neshoba County General Hospital and emergency responders from here were among the first on the scene there.
The tornado was on the ground four seconds shy of an hour, from 3:51 p.m. to 4:47 p.m., the National Weather Service said.
By Thursday, the death toll had risen to 10 in Winston when the last victim, a child, was found mid-afternoon.
The body of Tyler Tucker, 8, was found 200 yards north of where the body of his mother, Terri Tucker, 31, was found on Tuesday in a wooded area hundreds of yards from their Louisville home which was destroyed by the tornado.
At least eight other people were confirmed dead in Winston County by MEMA and many others injured.
Other Winston County victims of the storm:
Katherine Ferguson, 55: found in the rural community of Plattsburg southwest of Louisville.
Ruth Bennett, 53: died at the daycare center she operated at Louisville, Ruth's Child Care Center.
Dora Triplett, 64: found on Eiland Avenue in Louisville.
Gregory Jernigan, 60: found at the Eiland Plaza Apartments in Louisville.
Sarah Massey, 85: found near her home just north of Louisville.
Jerry Carter, 61: found injured on Eiland Avenue and died later at the University Medical Center in Jackson.
Leonard Carter, 38: found at the Eiland Plaza Apartments in Louisville.
Sean Fowler, 44: found blown into a wooded area hundreds of yards from his Louisville home which was destroyed by the tornado.
Those who died in other areas include: Cassandra Blansett, 39, Lee County; Sharon Pell, 49, Richland; Nicky Lee Painter, 56, Greenville; John Servati, 21, Tuscaloosa; and Ricky Oliver, Hamilton, Ala.
A mobile disaster hospital from North Carolina arrived in Louisville over the weekend to help fill the gap after last Monday's tornado heavily damaged Winston County's only hospital, a nursing home and medical office.
The first 12 trucks carrying equipment left Friday, said Kirsti Clifford, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. She said six more trucks are being loaded.
The facility includes an emergency room, surgery unit, inpatient beds, an X-ray machine and a lab. Officials hope it will be up and operating within two weeks. Paul Black, interim administrator of Winston Medical Center, said debris must be cleared from the site and utilities connected before the hospital can start seeing patients.
A mobile emergency room from the University of Mississippi Medical Center was initially providing care in the parking lot of the Louisville Wal-Mart.
Black said Winston Medical Center will operate the facility, which will be set up on a four-acre paved site on Louisville's south end. He said that will help limit job losses among the roughly 120 full-time employees at the hospital and nursing home.
"We are going to retain as many employees as we can,' Black said, saying insurance payments would also help to keep workers on the payroll.
Clifford said the deployment is expected to cost $233,000, which either the Federal Emergency Management Agency or Mississippi will pay.
"Since we've been designated a federal disaster area, FEMA helps carry the cost," said Dr. Sam Suttle, a Louisville physician who's been named Winston County's medical director.
The hospital could stay a year or longer. Officials are trying to decide whether to repair Winston Medical Center or build a new hospital, Black said.
"What we've been told is we can use the mobile facility for as long as we need it," Black said.
Speaking in Louisville on Monday, Gov. Phil Bryant said he may call a special session of the Legislature to help with recovery and did late Tuesday.
Bryant told reporters that the state believes that it needs at least $8.5 million to match federal aid from the April 26 tornadoes. The National Weather Service has counted 23 tornadoes that touched down across Mississippi on April 23.
State Sen. Giles Ward, R-Louisville, and Rep. Michael Evans, D-Preston, are likely to be strong supporters of any aid. Ward's house was destroyed, while Evans coordinated search and rescue efforts in the county.
"Today I take off my senatorial hat and stand before you as a victim of the storm," Ward said.
Bryant lauded the performance of Winston County officials, who cleared more than 100 truckloads of debris from a parking lot where the mobile emergency hospital is being set up.
A mobile emergency room from the University of Mississippi Medical Center was at the Wal-Mart parking soon after the storm.
"So you can see, we're making progress," Bryant said. "But as you can see, it's a long struggle."
Mississippi Emergency Management Director Robert Latham said more than 1,400 people have already registered for federal disaster assistance and more than $350,000 in money has already been committed.
Greg Flynn, a spokesman for MEMA, said 16 people remained in a shelter Sunday night in Louisville.
He said officials are continuing to examine options for temporary housing in Winston County, where Ward estimated that 1,000 to 2,000 of the county's 19,000 residents were homeless.
Officials have said not enough homes and apartments are available to absorb that many people, and have said they're considering bringing in mobile homes from FEMA.
"We want to be able to keep people in their community," Flynn said.
Multiple volunteer fire departments from Neshoba County responded to Winston County shortly after the tornado struck about 4 p.m.
Firefighters from Philadelphia Fire Department and Rescue 1 and Choctaw Fire responded along with four Neshoba EMS crews, Central Electric Power Association and Philadelphia Utilities.
Neshoba County Sheriff Tommy Waddell sent three deputies to patrol for looters.
- The AP contributed.