Abbeville digs out after storm that killed one

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

ABBEVILLE – Two years, two storms, two outcomes.
In 2008 a tornado swept a rural neighborhood just outside of Abbeville, destroying about a dozen homes and injuring perhaps a score of people, but killing none.
Sunday, another twister went through the small town itself, part of a weekend storm system that left six people dead across Northeast Mississippi.
Abbeville’s tornado struck about 3:30 a.m. It toppled huge old oaks and splintered cedars in dozens of yards, but it did limited damage to roofing, carports and other readily replaceable amenities on most of the houses it tracked over.
No injuries were reported among survivors, but there was one fatality.
Gladys Vaughn’s house sits perhaps 100 yards from where Phyllis Ann Sabbatini was killed. Vaughn had gone to stay with her son Saturday night because of the threatening weather.
Because Frank Vaughn’s home some two miles away had been destroyed by the 2008 twister, the family stayed up watching TV weather reports.
“I didn’t know the next morning if I still had a house,” Gladys Vaughn said. When she saw it altogether intact except for slight damage to the carport in back, “I said, ‘Lord, thank you.’”
Most of her neighbors hadn’t realized she’d left home when emergency responders started looking for survivors and victims.
“I had the whole town upset, looking for me,” she said. “We just have the best community.”
During the night, however, Gladys Vaughn had thought a lot about two years before.
“When it got my son’s house, I almost had a heart attack,” she said.
Across the road, John and Janie Haynie also lost a carport and trees. Their children and grandchildren, several of whom live nearby, skirted roadblocks to make sure they were OK.
As a child, Janie went through a storm that stripped her family’s back porch off the house, and she’s been wary of bad weather since.
“I just know the good Lord protected us,” she said.
So many Haynies live within a stone’s throw of the tornado’s path that the ridge is often called Haynie Hill. Wayne Haynie had a utility pole pierce his garage, and Patrick Haynie’s homebuilt shop lost part of its metal roof.
Jerry Haynie is Lafayette County’s road manager. Knowing rescue crews would need passage through the debris, his crew members were quick to respond.
“I didn’t call them – they called me,” he said. “By daylight we had most of the roads open at least one lane.”
The latest count of houses with damage stands at about 45 or 50, said Abbeville Police Chief Tim Pruitt, although on most the damages are modest.
“FEMA will be bringing assessment teams around,” said Lafayette County Emergency Management Coordinator David Shaw. Noting that the county had several roads damaged by flash floods, he added, “We’re also working on getting estimates from FEMA for road repairs.”
Around Ashland, which also was struck by a tornado, recovery is more extensive.
Two people were killed, and some 67 houses were damaged, including 17 believed to be total losses, said Benton County Emergency Management Coordinator Wesley Stanton.
A temporary shelter was set up at the Snow Lake fire station west of Ashland, but displaced families apparently stayed with friends or relatives instead.
Stanton said a great deal of help is needed to clean up debris and help homeowners recover any belongings they can.
“Whoever wants to volunteer needs to come by the Ashland Fire Station and check in with the Red Cross or the Americorps Volunteer Commission,” he said. “We don’t want to have several crews in one spot and no one helping somewhere else they’re needed.”
Both Ashland and Abbeville have tornado shelters. Ashland’s warning siren sounded for two different tornado warnings, and with both civilians and emergency personnel, the shelter was packed with an estimated 200 people on the second round.
Lafayette County has recently received its first-ever tornado sirens to be installed outside of Oxford and the University of Mississippi. Abbeville, Harmontown, Yocona, Taylor and Paris are slated to have them installed in the next few weeks.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.