|By Billy Davis
and Rupert Howell
The westward winds of Hurricane Katrina swirled through Panola County Monday night, snapping trees, yanking off roof shingles and felling power lines, but also sparing the lives of Panolians.
"I wasn’t lucky, I was blessed," said Jerry Cooley, whose Batesville funeral home at 327 Panola Avenue was spared when an uprooted walnut tree missed the corner of his business.
On Tuesday morning, Cooley showed a reporter how narrowly the tree had missed the embalming room of his business, where he was preparing two bodies for burial.
A half-mile east down Panola Avenue, thick limbs from an ancient oak tree dropped onto a power line and into the street at 124 Panola Avenue, again sparing any injuries due to the storm.
Even farther down Panola Avenue is the Red Cross shelter at the First Baptist Church, where Gulf Coast refugees experienced the lighter affects of the monster storm that had ravaged many of their communities.
On its Web site, The National Weather Service in?Memphis?listed?the severe weather in North Mississippi as a tropical storm, reporting 6.11 inches of rain in Tupelo and Lee County and 7.12 inches in Tishomingo County.
Although rainfall estimates for Panola County weren’t given by the Weather Service, an average of four inches was reported to The Panolian from across the county.
Panola County coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge confirmed Tuesday morning that no one was reported killed in the county as Katrina rumbled past in a northeasterly pattern.
Although no Panola Countians were reported killed, some relatives of Panolians living nearer the Gulf Coast have yet to be contacted.
Phyllis McBride, wife of Representative Warner McBride, lost her father to rising waters that destroyed the homes and businesses of her brothers and other relatives in the community of Delisle, located near Pass Christian.
Like many concerned family members with relatives living near the Gulf, Milton Loper of Batesville can’t get in touch with his son, Daniel Loper, who lives with his mother in Poplarville.
He last talked to his 14-year-old son Sunday afternoon. Thursday was Daniel’s birthday and the worried father is debating whether to go looking for him.
Talks with the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department and The Red Cross have thus far been unproductive according to Loper.
While most Panola Countians were huddled in their homes riding out the storm, others were working amidst Katrina’s battering of wind and rain.
TVEPA general manager Brad Robison said linemen from the electric cooperative fought and overcame what he estimated were 60- and 70-mile-per-hour wind gusts.
"Nobody had ever seen wind like that, and nobody had ever worked in wind like that," Robison said.
The general manager said he expected power would be restored by Friday to most portions of the county covered by TVEPA thanks to the marathon-like work of the linemen.
Once electrical power is fully restored in the county, Robison said, some of the TVEPA linemen will head south to aid in the Gulf Coast’s recovery effort. They will leave over the weekend or by Monday.
"The cooperatives from down there helped us out during the (1994) ice storm, and now it’s time to return the favor," the general manager said.
The TVEPA linemen worked about 36 hours straight, Robison said, stopping only to eat a bite, until he made them stop and rest.
"They came in at 8 a.m. on Monday and worked until about 9 p.m. Tuesday night," Robison said. "They didn’t want to stop, but I finally had to pull them (from work) because they needed the rest."
Panola County road manager Lygunnah Bean said road department workers pulled more than 100 trees from county roadways Monday night and another 50 on Tuesday.
"We got drenching wet," Bean said. "The wind would gust so hard that the rainsuits wouldn’t do you any good."
The winds from Katrina sent telephone pole-sized limbs of an oak tree into a home at 415 Broad Street in Batesville, where the Moore family was sleeping through the storm.
Husband and father Tracy Moore said the family was asleep when the limbs broke away from the tree about 11:45 Monday night and came crashing down into their home.
No one was hurt, but the limbs did considerable damage when they smashed through the roof and attic and pushed through a bathroom ceiling and a bedroom wall.
Tracy and Tina Moore’s two children were asleep in a second bedroom adjacent to the bathroom, but the children slept soundly despite the trouble, the parents said.
"I was sound asleep and woke up when I heard the tree breaking," Tracy Moore said. "We had to wake the kids up to tell them what happened."
The tree limbs smashed through the attic in at least two places, sparing the husband’s gun cabinet but punching through the wife’s Christmas decorations as it tore into the bathroom.
A hive of honey bees had apparently made their home high in the tree, and honey from the hive could be seen trickling down a closet wall. Some of the honey had also collected in a light fixture in the bathroom.