Marina damage

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 15, 2011

Docks F and G at the Sardis Lake Marina were twisted into one pile of wreckage late Wednesday afternoon when straight-line winds estimated at 85 to 90 miles an hour struck the facility during an intense squall. Over 30 boats were sunk, overturned and otherwise damaged. Authorities were evaluating a fuel leak at press time. — Photo courtesy Panola County EMA

Storm sowed destruction at marina

By John Howell Sr.

Three marina slips filled with boats lay strewn in a pile of twisted metal Thursday morning as officials tried to determine damage from a powerful wind storm that struck Sardis Lake late Wednesday.

“It was a powerful, small storm,” said Panola County deputy sheriff Mike Davis, who responded to the site after the storm struck between 6 and 7 p.m.

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He had remained there overnight to secure the area, he said.

Panola County EMA Director Daniel Cole later said an on-site investigation by National Weather Service personnel determined straight line winds as high as 90 miles per hour had pummeled the lake marina.

“A dock disconnected from C dock; F dock is upside down on top of G,” Sardis Lake Marina manager Rick Jameson told a boat owner as he fielded phone calls from vessel owners who were being notified by marina staff that the facility had been temporarily closed to allow damage and safety evaluation.

Fortunately, no one was injured, Davis said.

“It’s been so hot there have not been many people coming,” said one marina staffer.

Marina personnel estimated that as many as 150 boats had been moored at slips on the docks that extend into the waters of Shady Cove when the storm struck. The most visible damage was the docks and boats strewn together near the rock weir that holds water year-round in the upper cove.

Cole said that approximately 30 boats were sunk or damaged.

“When we came out here last night, we counted 15 pontoon boats upside down,” Cole said. When they returned they found more by daylight, he added.

By mid-morning, Cole, officials of the U. S. Corps of Engineers and other responders were assisted by a helicopter from the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department.

Cole and employees of marina operator SkipperBuds were monitoring a small spill from dockside fuel pumps, Cole said.

“Right now, winds are containing the spill,” he said.

The disconnected dock — dock A — appeared to be free-floating (it wasn’t —it had been secured by cables) near the lake end of the cove. There was little damage apparent to the boats that had floated away with dock A nor to those moored at a dock nearer the long walkway that provides access from the shore to the boats.

However, pontoon boats and other vessels upended by the wind and strewn about the cove were visible only by their hulls protruding slightly above the surface.

A boat slowly navigating the cove waters was using sonar in an attempt to determine the number of boats completely submerged, Davis said.

Corps civil engineering technician Dale Potts said that a rain gauge located at the nearby Sardis Dam gatehouse recorded 4.7 inches of rainfall from the downpour that accompanied the winds. On the other end of the levee at the Corps Field Office, 3.7 inches fell.

Corps officials project a lake level rise of two to three feet which will raise the lake level from 261.65 feet above sea level to 263 to 264 feet, Potts said.

One local boat owner who had come to the marina Thursday morning to inspect the damage determined that his vessel lay amidst the rubble near the weir. He said that his insurance would replace his loss.