By Daily Journal
April 27, 2011, began with threats of severe weather and ended with the destruction of Smithville by an EF-5 tornado that killed 16 residents, the most deadly and devastating hit in a day of widespread damage in Northeast Mississippi.
Daily Journal photographers were the first journalists on the scene in Smithville and captured the devastation first hand. For the powerful images of the ravaged town, and of recovery efforts in the days that followed, The Associated Press this weekend awarded the Journal’s photography staff with the top photo award for all daily newspapers in Mississippi and Louisiana for 2011.
The C.P. Liter Photography Award to the Daily Journal was announced at the annual meeting of the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press Managing Editors in New Orleans on Saturday. It’s the first time the Daily Journal has received the two-state award.
“We are honored to win this award,” said chief photographer Thomas Wells. “Our staff worked hard under terrible conditions to tell the story of Smithville, its people and what happened there.”
C. Todd Sherman was the first photographer to arrive in the Monroe County community just minutes after the tornado touched down, and other photographers were immediately dispatched to the scene.
Daily Journal photographers Wells, Sherman and Deste Lee shot thousands of images of the damage.
“The ruin inflicted by natural disaster tends to produce compelling pictures,” the judges wrote. “That said, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal’s photo coverage of the Smithville tornado goes beyond destruction to capture the shock and pain of victims and the weariness of those struggling to help them. This powerful series of pictures … shines in a field of outstanding photo contenders.”
Reprinted on this page are three photos that were among dozens published in the Daily Journal in the days immediately following the storm – one by each of the newspaper’s three photographers.