LIBERTY — A monstrous tornado swept east across northern Amite County, destroying homes, leveling forests and injuring at least three people, as well as leaving power out for a large area Monday afternoon.
The destructive storm system was one of many in an outbreak of severe weather across southwest Mississippi and other parts of the state Monday.
The tornado blasted east along Graves Road, reportedly damaging the homes of Les Graves, Brandon Hayden and Jack Carroll before slamming into the home of Wayne and Deborah Etheridge on Highway 567 north of Liberty. Wayne was outside when he saw the tornado approaching from the west.
“It happened so quick,” he said. “I went to the mailbox and I saw it coming across. By the time I got to the house, it started ripping things apart.”
The storm destroyed a shed, a barn and the roof at the rear of the house. The front part of the house, built in the 1800s, sustained the least damage.
“We are very blessed,” Deborah said. “This is all man-made stuff.”
Across the road, Jason Ford came home from work early due to weather reports. He found conditions calm, so he went out back to feed the dogs.
“When I was walking back I noticed the wind switched,” he said.
He realized a tornado was coming.
“I got in the bathroom and texted my wife,” he said.
Ford said the tornado sounded like “a freight train on steroids. It’s a good 10 times louder than a freight train,” he said.
“I got down on my knees and covered my hands and head. The windows went out. I thought that was the worst of it. Then I saw a pine branch coming down the hall. I said, ‘Lord, I think I’m coming to see you today.’ Then it stopped.”
He emerged from the bathroom to find the roof and brick wall blown off of the living room, exposing a view of destroyed trees.
Ford said he has lived through hurricanes in New Orleans, including Betsy.
“I’ve never lived through anything like this. Nature’s not something to be trifled with,” he said.
He attributes his survival to prayer.
“I was praying and I am thankful that I am standing here,” he said. “The only thing separating me from the terror was a stud wall.”
Across the road a large tree fell on an unoccupied trailer, destroying it. And next door, the tornado had completely demolished the trailer of Lynn Rollins, who picked among the rubble in a state of shock.
The damage continued east on Freeman Road and Dixon Lane, where three people were reportedly injured and taken to a hospital.
Details about the injured were unavailable Monday.
The storm was one of several that apparently originated around Smithdale and marched northeast Monday, bringing down trees and reportedly causing some structural damage in West Lincoln and Bogue Chitto as well.