Headlines – 4/8/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 8, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – April 8, 2005

  From the 4/8/05 issue of The Panolian :             

Storm system leaves damage in wake
     Floodwaters caused trouble for Batesville drivers, including those in the area of Lomax Street and the Hwy. 6 overpass. Water had receded some by the time this photograph was taken. Cars reportedly stalled in the area earlier due to high water.
By Billy Davis

April is Mississippi’s "peak severe weather month," a meteorologist told The Clarion-Ledger newspaper Wednesday after tornadoes and thunderstorms began pummeling the state from one end to the other.

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Panola Countians are cutting through downed trees, picking through toppled sheds and counting their blessings after flood waters and damaging winds pummeled the county Wednesday afternoon.

In eastern Panola County, high winds tore across homes east of Hwy. 315 and south of the Mt. Olivet area.

In that area, high winds damaged the most homes and property on McMinn, Rutherford, Joiner, Deer Creek, Shady Grove, Bibbs, Tidwell and Robison roads, said District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins, who was surveying the damaged areas Wednesday evening.

Perkins said the worst wind damage he witnessed was to a trailer home on Joiner Road, where winds yanked off most of the roof.

After the storm had moved on, residents drove the sloshy gravel roads to check in on their neighbors and kin, sharing the roadway with county road crews and TVEPA personnel.

Everybody who drove through the storm’s path had to contend with fallen trees and limbs, and flooded roadways. On Rutherford Road, an uprooted tree took part of the road with it.

Jimmy and Jane Clark were at home at 671 McMinn Road when high winds pushed over an ancient oak tree in their front yard, sending it crashing through a shed.

The high winds hit about 4 p.m. and lasted only about two minutes, said Jimmy Clark.

"I didn’t see a funnel cloud. I think it was straight-line winds," he said.

When the winds began, Jane Clark said she was trying to grab up the family pets and seek shelter. And then the storm was over.

"We’re just thankful nobody was hurt and it wasn’t any worse than it was," she said.

At 295 Rutherford Road, high winds yanked away the metal carport belonging to the Barbee family. The crumpled carport was parked across the road after the storm moved on.

Parked beneath the now-gone carport is Jimmy Barbee’s orange ’66 Chevelle, which remains untouched.

Jo Barbee said her husband, Jimmy, and her mother were home when the high winds began rocking the single-wide trailer home. While they waited out the storm, the winds ripped away underpinning and tore off the gutters.

"Jimmy told me, ‘I didn’t think we were going to make it,’" Jo Barbee told neighbors afterward.

In Batesville, some city streets were apparently unprepared for flood waters that overtook ditches and pipes.

Street Department superintendent Teddy Austin said rainwaters flooded Lomax Street and Thomas Street, which sit on opposite sides of the railroad tracks south of the Square.

Farther south, he said, a car stalled in high waters near the Hwy. 6 overpass and Quality Auto Parts.

"We didn’t close down any streets, but if it got any higher we would have," said Austin.

Rainwaters also swept through Riteway Cleaners and other businesses along Van Voris Street, said Riteway owner Bo Matthews.

"It comes in the back door and goes out the front door," Matthews said of the water, which rose six inches deep.

This area of Van Voris is prone to flooding and needs better drainage, Matthews said, who snapped photos of the damage and will keep them close by for city officials to see.

"Flooding and drainage is one of my main issues, and I’ve got my pictures for the next politician who walks in," Matthews said, alluding to the upcoming city election.

On Hwy. 35 North near Serta Mattress, flooding caused the Miss. Department of Transportation to close a small bridge until it can be repaired.

The thunderstorms that hit Panola County apparently pummeled much of the state, spawning a tornado in Rankin County that destroyed mobile homes and injured at least six people.

As those storms moved north, the National Weather Service alerted north Mississippi counties about the coming trouble, said Panola County Civil Defense director Son Hudson.

Hudson said he participated in a noon telephone conference with the Weather Service, which advised that the worst damage would occur in Panola County beginning at 4 p.m.

At the Civil Defense office in Batesville, Hudson and administrative secretary Tam Hawkins tracked the approaching storms with a weather radar downloaded from the National Weather Service Web site.

The storms cells that hit Panola County seemed to line up over Interstate 55, clinging to the interstate as they marched north. The most worrisome cells appeared crimson red on the radar. They were plentiful.

At the office, Hudson and Hawkins listened to storm spotters and volunteer firefighters report pea-sized hail, damaging high winds, and flood waters on Pope-Crowder Road.

About 3:30 p.m. a volunteer firefighter reported calm weather only to be warned by someone else that the storms would likely "redevelop" into more trouble.

Still another storm spotter reported on another report of a funnel cloud in Tallahatchie County.

The report of funnel clouds near Pope was credible, according to Hawkins, who said that warning came from The Weather Channel.

"We were lucky," Hawkins said of the storm. "It could have been really, really ugly."

Confusion over the severity of the storm trickled down to South Panola’s schools, where school officials were trying to grasp the weather reports while school children were boarding buses to go home.

"We were taking children off the buses and putting them back on," said Superintendent Dr. C.L. Stevenson. "After the National Weather Service cancelled the tornado warning, then the (tornado) sirens went off (in Batesville)."

Stevenson said the school district’s buses made their routes safely Wednesday afternoon and drivers reported only minor road problems Thursday morning.

Mt. Olivet resident Jackie Ricks said he helped cut apart a tree that had fallen across Hwy. 315 so a school bus and other traffic could continue on.

The same storm that knocked down the tree hit his family’s home at 39217 Hwy. 315, where it busted out windows in two bedrooms and toppled a pair of Cedar trees across the highway.

Agencies join to promote skills suitable for industry
By Rupert Howell

Three local agencies are combining resources to offer enhanced economic development in Panola County, Panola Partnership CEO Blair Jernigan told Partnership members at the annual meeting held Thursday night in Batesville.

The Partnership and North Mississippi Enterprise Initiative, (NMI) Inc. will host an array of classes and seminars with Northwest Mississippi Community College (NWCC) providing job-related training with state-of-the art computer and classroom equipment, state-paid instructors, educational and training materials and scheduling.

Jernigan said, "We will be offering an array of classes and seminars focusing on all facets of starting small businesses ranging from the formulation of business plans to managing cash flow. We also have plans to host

Ward III race includes incumbent,
   two challengers
By Billy Davis

Reorganizing Batesville’s parks department and putting in sidewalks are among issues being discussed by the city’s Ward 3 candidates.

Ward 3 Alderman James Yelton is seeking re-election after 20 years in office, hoping to keep his seat to begin a sixth and final term.

Also seeking the Ward 3 seat are mortuary owner Jerry Cooley and Rev. Leonard McGhee, a supervisor at Muscle Shoals and Baptist minister.

All three candidates are running as Democrats, meaning they will face off in the May 3 party primary. If none of the candidates garners a simple majority of the vote, a runoff will be held June 7 for the top two vote-getters.

Ward 3 includes the south portion of Batesville, stretching from the western city limits at Hadorn Road to portions of Dogwood and Hickory lanes near Interstate 55.

In the middle of the city, Ward 3 skirts south around Ward 4, linking both minority neighborhoods in west Batesville and upper-middle class homes in the Westmoreland Heights and Country Club Road area.

Yelton, 74, lives at 246 Dogwood.

Cooley, 49, lives at 353 Tubbs Road.

McGhee, 65, lives at 208 Claude Street.

During city board meetings, Yelton is known for asking pointed questions, most often about finances and city spending.

"I have spent the city money like it was my own," Yelton said, meaning that he had spent the city’s money as carefully as he would have spent his own.

Cooley said he, too, is mindful of the city budget and believes it’s the most important issue of the election.

"I realize there are other departments that have to have money, but with an $11 million budget (in 2004) and and $8 million budget (in 2005) we can do better than we’ve done," Cooley said.

According to Yelton, change is certainly coming to the city due to the open seats for mayor and alderman-at-large. Even so, he said, voters should think about more than change for change’s sake.

"With so many changes coming, sometimes change can be a bad thing," Yelton said. "You need experience on a board, and I have that experience."

Regarding Yelton’s tenure in office, McGhee said the long-time alderman has done a "beautiful job" but the time has come for a change in office.

"He’s been there for a long time. I’d like to have a chance to serve," McGhee said.

According to Cooley, voters tell him they’re ready for a change in city government. They want Batesville to be "the people’s town," he said, not a city in which a few powerful people maintain influence.

Cooley said he is campaigning on the building of a youth center in Batesville, the creation of a parks commission and building more sidewalks.

Aldermen vote 4-1 for overlay of downtown
By Jason C. Mattox

The overlaying of the Downtown Square will take place–after some bargaining among Batesville aldermen resulted in a 4-1 vote.

Ward One Alderman Bill Dugger voted against moving forward with the project.

"We had to cut some things down to get this project into the range of money you wanted to spend," said Warner McBride, of McBride Engineering, the city’s engineering firm.

The contract cost is down approximately $70,000 from the previous bid amount.

The changes mean instead of milling the entire downtown square as originally planned, only the main streets of the square will be milled. All streets and parking areas will be overlayed.

Drainage is not included in the total cost of the project.

"We did not include drainage in this design," McBride said. "It was never included."

Mayor Bobby Baker said the drainage problems on the square would be corrected by city crews.

"We plan to do the work on drainage ourselves," he said. "It was never the plan for the cost of the drainage to be included in the bid from Lehman Roberts.

"The city is responsible for having the drainage work completed before the overlay project starts," Baker added.

Baker said he wanted to see the project move forward and wanted to see every board member in favor of the project.

"You won’t get everyone on this board to support the project," Ward Three alderman James Yelton said.

Ward One alderman Bill Dugger said he could not support the project because he felt like there were other streets in the city that needed the work more than the square.

"I just can’t vote to put that kind of money into the square when there are other streets that we should be working on," he said.

Alderman-at-Large Hudson Still said he felt like spending the money on the downtown area was a good investment for the city.

"In all the time I have been on this board, we have passed up chances to do some things and then we end up doing it and it costs a lot more," he said. "I feel like doing this now will be a good investment for the future of the city.

"When it comes to the roads, you have to start somewhere, and I really believe we need to start in the downtown area," Still added. "We owe it to this town, and I personally feel we will be rewarded for the work."

Ward Two Alderman Rufus Manley said he did not believe it was in the city’s best interest to overlay the square, a statement that sparked a debate and a political swap meet.

"I have been trying to get the sidewalks on MLK (Martin Luther King Street) and Tubbs Road done for a long time, and there is never enough money," he said. "It doesn’t seem fair that there is never enough money for the sidewalks, but there is money to get whatever else you want to get done."

Manley said he is investigating grants that could pay for sidewalks on Tubbs Road.

"The next big rain we get, there will be some pictures taken and we will send it off to see if we can get any money," he said.

With the future of the overlay seemingly hinged on Manley’s vote, Pounders and Still made an offer of support for the long-delayed sidewalk project.

"If you will support this project, I will go with doing the sidewalks when the money is available," Pounders said.

"If we get your support, we can vote to have the sidewalks designed and advertise for bids today," Still added.

Manley, still not certain about the project, asked for further proof that the sidewalks would become a reality.

"What else can we give you?" Pounders asked.

"If we could give you dates for when the project will start, the future board could come in and overturn it," Still said.

Baker said he felt like the overlaying of the downtown streets should take priority over sidewalks.

"I really think we need to do something to make a difference in the history of our downtown, and this might be that chance," Still said.

In the end, when a vote was called for, to the admitted surprise of Pounders, the only nay for the overlay came from Dugger.

City Engineer Pete Sullivan said the project would begin after SpringFest.


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