Storm wreaks havoc in Warren County

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 4, 2000

A summer storm barreling through Warren County Thursday afternoon left one home demolished by fire and another seriously damaged.

A split-second flash of lightning was the suspected cause of a two-hour blaze that destroyed the 1122 Tucker Road home of Betty and Howard Ettinger, and it was an apparent strong wind that knocked a giant pecan tree onto a home at 2419 Old Highway 27.

No injuries were reported.

Betty Ettinger said she was alone and watching television at about 2:15 when lightning struck.

“The TV blew out,” said Ettinger, whose family has lived in the house for about 30 years. “Then I went outside to see if the lightning had started a fire in the attic. So I walked outside, and there were flames coming out of the roof. So, I ran inside and called 911, and they said, Get out.'”

She tried to gather up some of her more precious belongings, but “everything is important,” she said. “I didn’t know what I should grab.”

Ettinger left the house and watched helplessly as the fire started to consume her roof. “I just know it’s going to burn down,” she said as she watched the early stages of the blaze.

Capt. Kenny Pugh of the Culkin Volunteer Fire Department was the first firefighter on the scene.

“When I got here, I could see heavy smoke and heavy fire coming out of the eaves of the house, so I called for some more trucks from Culkin and Bovina,” the 11-year firefighting veteran said. “By the time they got there, it was already burning. And by the time we could get to it and fight it, it was too far into the house.”

Members of Bovina, Northeast and Fisher Ferry volunteer fire departments also responded, Warren County Fire Coordinator Kelly Worthy said.

“They took no time getting here,” said Ettinger. “Culkin was great.”

Howard Ettinger, who works at Abraham Construction, said the house was well-insured and they plan to rebuild.

“The only really valuable things are probably my coin collection and some antique clocks,” he said. “They got the coins out. They brought out some of the clocks, but I don’t think they’re going to work anymore.”

The Ettingers also salvaged some family pictures, a mirror, a mounted 10-point deer head, rifles and some furniture.

“It’s going to be a total loss,” Worthy said. “We’re going to save a little bit of the structure, but not much. You can’t win ’em all.”

The second casualty of the storm is the home of Steve and Lynn Cox at 2419 Old Highway 27. Strong winds toppled a pecan tree onto the roof of the two-story house that has been the Coxes’ home for three years.

“It sounded like lightning,” said Lynn Cox, a teacher at Mississippi School for the Deaf in Jackson. “I didn’t know what happened until I felt the house shudder.”

Lynn and her two children, Jennifer Johnson, 18, and Landon Johnson, 15, were inside. Landon was on the second floor when the tree struck the roof of the room where he was playing video games.

“We didn’t really hear it because we were playing Nintendo and the TV was up loud,” he said. “I didn’t really know what was happening until I went outside and saw the tree.”

“Jennifer was standing at the front door and actually saw it happen,” Mrs. Cox said. “She said it swayed way back one way and then bent back towards the house and came down.”

As for the house, Cox said all the walls are cracked and “the chimney looks like somebody pushed it down.”

“We’re just very thankful nobody was hurt,” said Steve Cox. He is the Industrial Coordinator at Louisiana Technical College in Tallulah.

“The sheriff’s office did a great job,” said Lynn Cox. “We called 911, and they were out here in minutes. They called Entergy for us and the deputy came out here and stayed with us.”