Picking up the pieces after Easter storms

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, April 16th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.  Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Next up, recovering from storms.

REICHARD: This Easter Sunday, deadly weather swept through the south. Storms killed 34 people, and left thousands homeless. WORLD reporter Kim Henderson spoke with several people about what it’s like to pick up the pieces.

KIM HENDERSON, CORRESPONDENT: When deadly tornadoes cut a path from Louisiana to the Appalachian Mountains last Sunday, a quiet region in South Mississippi felt the brunt of their anger. 

HATHORN: We had time to run to our closet…

John Hathorn lives in Jefferson Davis County where four people died. He says after the first tornado touched down, his family formulated a game plan before the second one hit. 

HATHORN: …and get in our twin closets and cover ourselves up. And the second we sat down, our ears popped, and then all of a sudden, there was this boom, like a bomb went off, shook the whole house. And it all happened about as quick as I’m telling you it happened. And then after that, boom, I guess that’s the roof and all coming off and all this, uh, it was over with. Gone. It all happened within 2 minutes. 

In Collins, Mississippi, Fire Chief John Pope described a homeowner’s surprise at finding daylight where a roof should have been. 

POPE: There was a family that had a storm shelter installed in their home maybe a few years ago. There were several individuals, not just their family members, but neighbors and friends that were able to get to their home and get inside that storm shelter. Twelve or fourteen individuals I believe that they were able to fit inside. And as they went inside of it, everything around it was still standing. And when they opened that storm shelter door, everything around them was completely leveled. 

Nearby, a Covington County resident says her house is still standing, but barely. Friends ran bulldozers for two days solid, pushing trees and tin out of the way. Even without power, they’ve opted to stay at night to protect their property against intruders.  

BROOKS: I have 147 acres of disaster. There is not a 10-foot-square that does not have some sort of debris on it. 

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves visited hard-hit areas early in the week and acknowledged that the pandemic is making storm recovery more difficult. 

GOVERNOR REEVES: Unfortunately, the wind blowing has not stopped the virus from being out there and it having the opportunity to spread so please, stay safe…

Cory Holliman, vice president of the board of supervisors in Jefferson Davis County, agrees.  

CORKY HOLLIMAN: We have a lot of people wearing masks. Trying to distance ourselves as much as we could. We’re trying to keep men and their equipment, and trucks separated. It’s kinda hard to do. With the effort and as many people as we need out here, it has slowed us down a little bit to be somewhat cautious. 

Collins fire-chief John Pope says the conditions have highlighted the work of those he calls “citizen first responders.”

POPE: People that were affected themselves, they’ve lost everything themselves, they weren’t worried about them. They were worried about helping their neighbors. They would get on their tractors, get on their loaders, out with their chainsaws. And they’re trying to help us cut paths…  

And churches are responding too, even while members wear masks and dole out hand sanitizer. Tommy Broom heads up one of the Baptist associations in Mississippi. 

TOMMY BROOM: Our churches have been doing disaster relief work after the tornadoes. We’ve been cutting trees off of houses, we’ve been cutting trees up in yards,cleaning yards. Some of our churches have even been cooking to feed the disaster relief workers, and the utility workers. We’ve been doing the best we can. God is going to see us through it. 

Lydia Brooks and her family are members of The Springs Church, where she directs the children’s program. The Springs is part of the association that’s sending out volunteers. The background sound here is from her generator. They’ve been without power since Sunday.

BROOKS: My church showed up…No matter what, they’ve been there. They were there with lunch. They were there with dinner, and love. Quarantine or not, they were there to make me strong.

With emotional and financial turmoil threatening so many, Lydia Brooks still thinks Christian kindness can win the day. 

BROOKS: One of my church members came and cleared my driveway. The next morning, the people just flooded out to do what they could. This is my church. My community. What better day than Easter for Him to show up, show his beauty, show His love. Dear Lord, I saw you in each and every person that came by here. We’ve lost everything. And He will get us through this.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kim Henderson.

REICHARD: To read more about how COVID-19 restrictions are making relief efforts difficult across the region, look for Kim’s report tomorrow on WNG.org.

(Sarah Warnock and Barbara Gauntt/The Clarion-Ledger via AP) This Monday, April 13, 2020, drone photo shows damage in an area in Seminary, Miss., following Sunday’s tornado.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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