Lafayette County sees near-repeat of ’08

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – The apparent twister Wednesday that hit parts of Lafayette County, including the Lafayette County Industrial Park, took much the same route as the storm that struck on Super Tuesday 2008.
This time, the damage started farther west and came into Oxford proper, but the damage north and east of Oxford was considerably less.
The former LifeSpec cabinet manufacturing plant appeared virtually destroyed Wednesday.
Sitting on the southwest edge of the Lafayette County Industrial Park, its roofing, siding and insulation were scattered over several other properties in the park.
The plant has been unused in recent years and was for sale, said Max Hipp, executive director of the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation.
Across Industrial Park Drive, the SWM Co.’s plant lost much of its roof and some siding, and the entire plant sustained water damage. Manager Elvest Cook said the plant employs about 100 people to customize and distribute Blauer uniforms, primarily for law enforcement agencies nationwide.
While the company has another plant in Charleston, Miss., along with others in Missouri and Mexico, its local officials are already trying to find another facility in or near Oxford for a temporary relocation.
“The people who work here can’t drive to Charleston,” Ray Sockwell Jr., Lafayette County District 5 supervisor, said as he walked through the plant with Cook. “We want to get them back to work as soon as possible.”
Early reports that the Caterpillar plant had lost its roof proved somewhat exaggerated. The plant had to close temporarily after the Feb. 5, 2008, storm, but most of the debris around it Wednesday seemed to be from the LifeSpec plant.
Elliott Lumber Inc. lost its front gable, just as in 2008, and had building materials scattered around its lumberyard. Company president Bo Elliott acknowledged that “the novelty is wearing off” of having tornado damage.
“We need phones and lights restored to be back up to speed,” he said, “but we’re still open for business.”
Polly Johnson showed up with her daughter, Linda Anderson, and great-grandson to the tornado shelter at the Lafayette County Central Fire Station Wednesday afternoon.
“The tornado went over me last night,” she said. “It was my first time to live through a tornado. I’ve never heard so much wind in all my life. I’ve got tops out of trees and no electricity, but the good Lord was with us; it didn’t hit my house or me.”