Sardis Lake family one of many struck by Sunday storms

Published 7:55 am Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Jeannie Neville and her brother-in-law James Byars outside their Ellzey Road home Monday morning.


Easter Sunday storms ripped through Panola, and hundreds of other Southern counties, leaving millions of dollars in damages to homes and businesses, and leaving thousands without electricity, some as long as three days and counting.

Dozens of lives were disrupted across Panola County, a few inconvenienced by power outages and lawn furniture blown off decks, and others devastated by the loss of their homes and vehicles from large limbs and trees crashing onto their properties.

On Ellzey Road, off Hwy. 35N at Sardis Lower Lake, Jeannie Neville was nearly crushed when a large tree fell on the back of the home she shares with her sister and brother-in-law, Tom and Bettye Byars.

“I was standing in my bedroom looking out the window when they called and said it was really bad,” Neville said. “As soon as I moved away the tree slammed down and everything went black. The next thing I knew Tom was trying to get back there to see what had happened.”

Tom Byars said he and wife Bettye have lived in their home about 20 years. Bettye recently had knee replacement surgery and is not mobile. She also requires oxygen at times, giving the couple more worries.

“We’re just lost right now. we don’t know what to do,” Bettye said Monday morning from her chair in the living room. “I can’t get around and we have no power and no one to help us. This is something that I just don’t how to deal with.”

Her husband was equally perplexed. “I just don’t know what to do, or where to start.” Byars, a retired electrician, said the property is uninsured. “When we got it paid for, the insurance company cancelled our policy, and I haven’t been able to get any since then,” he said.

“I worked hard my whole life, but I don’t see how I can do anything with this,” Byars said, surveying the massive oak that has crushed a part of his home. Several rooms of the home, including the kitchen and a bath, are not damaged other than the outside  electrical wiring torn away and the couple hoped to remain at home while trying to find some help.

Panola County’s Emergency Operations office were made aware of the situation and were sending help to the family on Tuesday.

State and federal aid for damaged businesses and homes may be available in coming months, although local officials are still in the very early stages of gathering information and data for those applications.