Published 12:00 am Monday, January 11, 2016

Fire ant attack not likely to bring FEMA declaration

Panola County was fortunate to have escaped the December 23 tornado with no serious injuries to folks hereabouts.
The county’s first responder community — that in this potentially extreme situation included a broad swath from firefighters, law enforcement of every stripe from local police, the sheriff and his deputies to Wildlife Conservation Officers, ATF agents and so on, Red Cross officials, the county Emergency Management Agency and perhaps others — mobilized en masse.
After the local first responders had set priorities for Panola’s needs and determined that they would be met, they made themselves available to worse-hit counties to the northeast. All of that happened within 24 hours of the EF3 tornado’s passing through.
There is one previously unreported casualty that we only learned about during a chance encounter with Bill Wallace of Como.
There was a young fellow Bill knows well who found himself out southwest of Como directly in the path of the twister’s approach. He responded just as any other level-headed young man caught in such a situation might have done; he pulled out his phone and started recording video.
But as the tornado kept coming, bearing down on him, he decided that he’d better seek shelter, so he ran into a nearby ravine and lay on the ground.
The trouble was the fire ants who had previously staked a claim by building their nest on the exact spot where the young man had chosen to lie. If you’ve ever stirred a fire ant nest with a stick, you know how quickly they mobilize and attack everything around them.
Wallace, in retelling the story, provided no estimate of how long the young man remained in the prone position on the ground before he decided the need for immediate relief from his numerous attackers was greater than the threat of the winds howling around. He jumped up from spot and ran into a nearby pond where he immersed himself in an attempt to remove the army of biting, stinging creatures.
Fire ants attack from both ends. With their mandibles they clamp their victims while they inject poison with stingers on the other end. It’s an effective one-two punch, the latter of which is the  reason we call them fire ants, a reason that the victim in this story now knows better than most of us.
Fortunately, he was not highly allergic to the venom. Soon a nearby resident had provided him with white vinegar which proved effective in taking away the burning, Wallace said.Something about the vinegar’s acidity counteracting the venom’s alkalinity, according to internet sources.
The point of this retelling is that if we had suffered losses like some of our neighbors, we’d have had a hard time finding its humor.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox