An aerial view of one of five residential neighborhoods in Louisville which was destroyed on Monday, April 28. A clear path of destruction could be seen after the EF-4 tornado tore a near mile-wide path of destruction for 34.3 miles through Leake, Neshoba, Attala and Winston counties. Louisville was especially hit hard including the county hospital.
An aerial view of one of five residential neighborhoods in Louisville which was destroyed on Monday, April 28. A clear path of destruction could be seen after the EF-4 tornado tore a near mile-wide path of destruction for 34.3 miles through Leake, Neshoba, Attala and Winston counties. Louisville was especially hit hard including the county hospital.
The massive search and rescue operation in wake of the devastating EF-4 tornado in Winston County last week was led by Philadelphia Fire Chief Pierce Clark, leader of Mississippi Emergency Management Agency's Task Force 2.

The search for the missing began Monday, April 28 after the tornado struck and lasted until Thursday at 2:53 p.m. when the body of Tyler Tucker, 8, was found 200 yards north of where the body of his mother, Terri Tucker, 31, was recovered on Tuesday, April 29 in a wooded area hundreds of yards from their Louisville home destroyed by the tornado.

Two firefighters from Philadelphia, Senior Capt. Mitch Lyon and firefighter Simeon Deweese, were with the crew that found the bodies of Terri Tucker and Sean Fowler, 44.

However, it was a Meridian police officer, also a member of MEMA Task Force 2, who found Tyler on Thursday.

"He [Tyler] was just out in the open," Clark said. "We initially thought he would be found amongst the debris in the path of the tornado."

Clark said they searched areas by priority with the direct path of the tornado to the east as the first priority. Second priority was west where Tyler was eventually found.

"He wasn't in the worst hit area," Clark said.

After the body was found all members of the task force were recalled to a central location then demobilized.

Part of the search included cadaver sniffer dogs, but while Clark said they were a big help, they could only use the dogs for about one to two hours at a time.

"We were running them hard," he said. Clark said his crew worked hard day and night to find everybody.

"We covered 134 acres overall just looking for the boy," he said, noting that members of MEMA's Task Force 3 also responded. "We knew he was missing almost right away."

Monday night, there were 300 plus people involved in the search including volunteers. There were 120 to 180 firefighters each day thereafter involved, Clark said.

"It was a true honor to lead such a great group of people on an operation of that scale," he said. "We were self sufficient. We don't rely on any other outside agencies. We have a logistics task force from all over the state that handled feeding and housing us. They provide restrooms and shower facilities."

Clark said when he and others initially arrived Monday after the tornado struck, visibility was very limited.

"We were still under an active tornado warning," he said. "They advised us to seek shelter immediately because we were in the path of another tornado."

Despite the devastation they could see more clearly when the sun rose the next morning, Clark recalled how he noted how beautiful the day was amid all the rubble.

"It was a beautiful day Tuesday to be in such a disaster area," he said.

He recalled seeing the numerous volunteers passing through with water and other items.

"Tuesday through Thursday we were at a mobile communications truck set up south of where the child's house as on Highway 397," he said. "Somebody pulled in there and brought in a cooler with drinks. Others stopped giving us Mountain Dews, water and Gatorade."

Neshoba County churches of all denominations and businesses transported needed items to the storm victims.

Martin Real Estate and East Philadelphia Baptist Church were among the first to organize as drop off sites. Hicks Animal Clinic and Northside Animal Clinic carried cat, dog and horse food to the area.

Clark noted that the state of Mississippi's three response task forces are from the northern, central and southern areas.

Those responding included firefighters from such cities, Madison, Flowood, Ridgeland, Jackson, Starkville, Columbus, Philadelphia, Newton, Meridian and Choctaw, among others.

The teams are made up of responders from across the state and when called into action they gather and head to where they are needed, he said.

The Philadelphia Fire Department currently has 32 men and of that, 12 are members are on Task Force 2, the maximum slots available that could be filled by the Philadelphia department.

Members of the task force include: Chief Clark, who was recently named a task force leader, Battalion Chief Darrell Wilson, Cap. Bill Chunn, firefighter T.J. Rushing, firefighter Simeon Deweese, Battalion Chief Deric Horne, Cap. Jamar Talley, firefighter Jeremy Shields, Capt. Myron Williams and firefighter Jeremy Morgan.

The task forces ran its operations from a command center set up in the National Guard armory in Louisville. About 50 National Guardsmen assisted in the search.

Clark, who has headed the city fire department for seven years, said he and up to 20 other firefighters, from the city as well as volunteers from the county, assisted initially with neighborhood-to-neighborhood searches in Louisville and rural Winston County.

Multiple volunteer fire departments from Neshoba County responded to Winston County shortly after the tornado struck. 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, among others.

Neshoba County Sheriff Tommy Waddell sent three deputies to patrol for looters in Louisville.