Scottie Saulter was busy Saturday afternoon working to saw off limbs from a large tree that had fallen from his neighbor’s yard at his home in Metcalfe, crushing his fence and barely missing his house.
He said it was about 3:30 a.m. when he and his family heard the strong winds making their way through their neighborhood.
“The wind was like a freight train. Stuff was rattling and I heard a pop. The lights went out across the street, then we heard a crack, crack, crack, crack, and I said, ‘One of these trees is fixing to fall’ and then next thing you know, our lights went out. It was raining and pitch black, you couldn’t see anything,” he said.
At about 4:30 a.m., Saulter said his wife was getting ready to leave for work and that’s when they noticed the large tree that had fallen into their driveway, blocking her car.
“There was no way. I looked out and said, ‘There’s a tree right behind your car.’”
Delta residents are still picking up the pieces from the storms that ripped through the area this weekend.
In Washington County, businesses and homes in downtown Greenville and north of town seemed to receive the most damage after early Saturday morning storms blew through the area.
Meteorologist Anna Wolverton, with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Jackson, said it was unclear whether Greenville’s storms were straight-line winds, a tornado or both.
“It was probably both,” she said, noting the NWS observation site located at the Mid Delta Regional Airport wind measured wind gusts at 60 mph.
National Weather Service teams were in Washington County on Tuesday to confirm of what exactly the storm consisted. Results were not available by press time.
There were about 6,000 Entergy customers in Washington County without power Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon, nearly half of those customers had power restored and as of Tuesday afternoon, about 50 still remained without power.
Entergy customer service manager Gerald Husband said about 100 poles had broken throughout the county, which left Entergy crews with a large task.
As of Tuesday afternoon, about 500 customers in Benoit and Scott were predicted to get power back sometime today.
The severe weather was part of a large storm system affecting the central, southern and eastern U.S. that killed at least 11 people, including three in Louisiana and three in Alabama.
Entergy said its subsidiaries serving Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi hit a peak of 134,000 outages in the entire system.
As residents were beginning to pick up the pieces Saturday morning, Mayor Errick Simmons declared a state of emergency in the City of Greenville and outgoing Gov. Phil Bryant signed an emergency declaration for the state.
Whatever the storm consisted of exactly, several buildings in downtown Greenville received damage, including an unoccupied former business on Main Street that was reduced to rubble.
L.D. Williams, who lives in an apartment directly across the street from the destroyed business, said he slept right through the storm.
“I was surprised when I looked outside. I didn’t even hear it,” he said.
As Dawkins Office Supply employee Jimmy Brown walked the sidewalks with his dog Saturday morning, he said their business seemed to be spared overall with some roof damage.
“We were coming to get breakfast early this morning and we said, ‘Let’s go see if the store’s OK.’” he said.
Pointing to the debris and rubble along Main Street, he said, “When we saw all this, I saw, ‘Oh my God!’”
Another unused building, the Elks Lodge on Washington Avenue received enough damage that Mayor Simmons said it was too unstable to leave standing.
The Elks Lodge’s windows on the east end were knocked out and there was fundamental structural damage.
“It was too dangerous to leave up,” Simmons said.
As a result, an executive order was signed and a joint effort between Kenneth’s Excavation Dirt & Gravel, Lesure’s Demolition of Greenville and city crews worked to tear down the long-time dilapidated building.
The building had already been scheduled to be demolished at some point in the future.
On Jan. 28, 2019, the City of Greenville was granted a demolition permit for the Elks Lodge building by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The building was considered as a possible site for the new federal courthouse but was eliminated in favor of Stein Mart Square, for reasons such as the lodge’s placement by MDAH as a contributing factor to the National Register status of downtown Greenville and lead contamination being identified as an environmental concern.
The city applied for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields Cleanup grant for $350,000 because the site requires remediation. Had the grant been awarded, it would have gone toward abating asbestos and lead paint and covering demolition costs. In an August meeting, the city council rejected the only bid of $400,000 from Lesure’s Demolition due to high costs.