Hail damage extensive at state mental facilities

By Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Press

PEARL — Mississippi’s primary psychiatric hospital and a nearby facility for people with developmental disabilities were hit hard by this week’s hail storm with damage that could exceed $1 million, an official said.

Now a race is on to patch holes in roofs and broken windows at the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield and the Hudspeth Regional Center before another round of bad weather hits.

“Right now, it’s patch what you can, patch and repair what you can repair to get ready for more rain coming this weekend,” said Scott Sumrall, the disaster coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Mental Health.

Sumrall said Thursday that most of the buildings have roof damage or broken windows at the state hospital, a sprawling 350-acre campus that serves about 500 psychiatric patients and more than 400 people in nursing homes.

The nearby Hudspeth Regional Center also had damage, including an administration building that “looks like somebody punched holes in the roof,” Sumrall said. About 285 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live at Hudspeth and it serves an additional 1,400.

“I think we’re easily looking at over a million dollars, possibly millions,” in damage, Sumrall said.

Blue tarps were stretched across the red, clay-tile roofs on many buildings at Whitfield. Most of its vehicles were damaged and unusable, so cars were brought in from other facilities.

Sumrall said he estimates Monday’s storm broke 2,000 panes of window glass.

There were no injuries from the storm, which dumped chunks of ice as big as baseballs on some parts of Mississippi, including the Jackson metro area. Whitfield and Hudspeth are in Rankin County.

The storm pounded a swath from Warren County through Jackson and its suburbs and into Rankin, Scott and Jasper counties, said Chad Entremont, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson.

Entremont said there’s the possibility of more bands of severe weather in central Mississippi on Friday and Saturday. Those storms will have the potential for damaging winds and hail, but forecasters say the hail isn’t likely to be as big as what hit earlier this week.

It’s too early to tell exactly where the weather will hit or how severe it will be, though some forecast models show storms pushing along the Interstate 20 corridor, an area hit hard by the earlier weather, Entemont said.

Authorities don’t know yet how many homes, buildings and cars were damaged, but it could be in the thousands.

Roszell Gadson, a spokesman for State Farm, the state’s largest home and automobile insurer, said late Wednesday that his company had already received nearly 12,000 claims in Mississippi.

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney has said there could end up being 35,000 to 50,000 claims in the state.

“It may take us a while to get a good grasp of the monetary value of the damage, but it will probably be pretty staggering,” said Entremont, the meteorologist.