Storm hits downtown; Elks building dropped


Downtown Greenville received significant damage after early Saturday morning’s  storms that blew through the area.

Both Mayor Errick Simmons and Gov. Phil Bryant on Saturday declared a state of emergency for the City of Greenville as a result of the storm damages.

About 6,000 Entergy customers in the city lost power during the storm and as of Saturday afternoon, 3,400 customers were still without power.

Entergy customer service manager Gerald Husband said about 65 broken poles north of town. He said it is unclear at this time when power will be restored, but Husband said most of the city should be restored by the end of the day.
"I will give further details as to restoration later, we are still assessing damages," Husband said. 
Meterologist Anna Wolverton with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Jackson said it is unclear whether Saturday morning’s storms are the result of straight-line winds, a tornado or both. 
"It was probably both," she said, noting NWS survey teams are being sent to area Sunday to confirm. 
According to the NWS observation site located at the Mid Delta Regional Airport, wind gusts were measured at 60 mph.

Whatever the storm consisted of exactly, several buildings in downtown Greenville received damage, including a former business on Main Street that was destroyed.

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, 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.

The council decided to reject the bid because the cost was too high and they wanted to look at other options according to City Attorney Andy Alexander.