Tornado clean-up

Residents cleaning up from close call

By Jeremy Hudson

Daily Journal

RANDOLPH – Kammy Collums and Jenene Sullivan were among hundreds working Wednesday to recover from Tuesday’s storm that struck this southwestern Pontotoc County community.

High winds ripped portions of the tin roof from their parents’ former home on Houpt Lane. The home had been vacant for the past nine years, but stored basically all of their family mementos. The sisters’ parents, Judson and Betty Houpt, had lived there for at least 40 years.

Betty Houpt died around 10 years ago and Judson Houpt moved out of the home a year later.

“Everything was just left the way it was when Mother died,” Sullivan said. “It was left the same. We’ve never changed anything.”

When the wind peeled back the section of tin roof, rain rushed in.

“All of Momma’s furniture was just soaked,” Collums said.

Most of the family still lives on Houpt Lane, either across or down the road from the old house. After the storm passed over the area, family members came to help the sisters move the furniture and family photos from the rain-damaged house to a safer place.

“All of our old baby pictures and a lot of old stuff was there,” Sullivan said. “We found a baby dress of mine from when I was little that I had forgotten about. We found a baby bonnet, too.

“As we began going through that stuff, we found a lot of things we had just forgotten about,” she said.

Though the furniture in the living room was heavily damaged, most of the family photos and keepsakes were untouched, the roof remained in tact above the areas where they were stored.

“I don’t think any of the pictures on the wall were even wet,” Sullivan said.

The sisters still had piles of bags of their family’s personal items to remove from the house on Wednesday.

“This was all just so heartbreaking,” Sullivan said. “Everything here was just like she left it.”

Was it a tornado?

Pontotoc County inmates were on Antioch Road helping to remove trees and debris from the area. Workers with the Mississippi Department of Transportation were in the area doing the same. But none knew for sure if they were cleaning up the leftovers from a tornado.

James Duke, meteorologist in charge from the National Weather Service office in Memphis, was in the area to find out. He said he would have to survey the area in order to determine if a tornado did indeed strike.

“The nature and scope of the damage is the principle thing,” Duke said. “One of the things we look for is the path of the trees or the debris. We look to see if they are forming a line of convergence into the tornado vortex.”

He said either the trees or debris will form a herringbone shape along the path of the tornado.

“Things will point in toward the center, like a herringbone,” he said. “If it’s not trees, it’s debris. It’s whatever was in its way.”

He said large hail is a good sign a tornado was present. Tuesday afternoon, golf ball-sized hail was present in the county.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, no decision had been made on what to call Tuesday’s storm.

Pontotoc Sheriff Leo Mask said even if the storm was not a tornado, it was enough to bring about memories from last February’s tornado.

“That’s the first thing we thought,” Mask said. “I talked to four different people and all of them told me they saw a funnel cloud and heard that sound.”