Rita brings flooding, tornado to area|[9/26/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 26, 2005

After the wind and rain came flooding of streets and some homes in Vicksburg and Warren County on Sunday as Rita’s remnants spiraled around the state a second day.

A tornado touched down near Blakely, resulting in property damage but no reports of injuries.

The official gauge at the Vicksburg harbor measured 2.73 inches of rain in the 24 hours ending at 7 a.m. Sunday and a mere 1.36 inches in the period ending at 7 a.m. today. Rainfall totals recorded at the city’s sewage treatment plant on Rifle Range Road were 7.75 inches Sunday and 8.5 inches for the weekend. In the Warrenton area, weather observer Bill Ford recorded 6.25 inches of rain on Sunday. Veteran observers said the heaviest rain must have missed the gauge because storm totals of 14 to 16 inches were estimated during the two days of periodic downpours.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“It came up in less than 2 seconds,” Anthony Williams said of how fast the water seemed to rise in the Greenbriar area.

Williams said his wife, Zanetta, was cooking breakfast for their three children in their home at 4915 Halls Ferry Road. A stream runs behind their house and had overflowed, but surged up between about 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., Anthony Williams said.

Hatcher Bayou and Durden Creek drain nearly 100 square miles through the area, last overflowing into residential areas, including Hamiliton Heights, in 2002. That neighborhood has flooded periodically for decades, and many homes have been bought and torn down through a national program.

Among other residents of Halls Ferry who had fled to higher ground were Elijah and Mary Griffin, 4806; Mark Dotson and his family, 4809; and Harold Mayfield and his family, 4119.

A resident of Melrose Avenue in Hamilton Heights, Clarence Parnell, said his home had remained an island, but that water was within a few feet or less of its doorways. He had driven one of his vehicles to higher ground while he could but another was left stranded by the rising water. “I’m probably going to lose that one,” he said of the stranded vehicle.

Mike Thompson of Redwood said he was driving his Ford F-250 pickup south on U.S. 61 approaching Vicksburg during heavy rain about 12:30 p.m. Sunday when he spotted a funnel cloud about a mile ahead and to the west of the highway, across the road from a former convenience store.

Thompson “probably drove right through the middle of” the tornado, said L.W. “Bump” Callaway, director of the Warren County Emergency Management Office.

“It was kind of like a roller-coaster ride,” Thompson said.

Thompson was headed to the former convenience store at Blakely. Callaway and Sheriff Martin Pace were there afterward to view damage. The tornado’s path east behind the store was marked by debris from the building. A rectangular piece of plywood of some 50 square feet was planted on an aerial utility wire and hung there “like a playing card,” Callaway said. Insulation could be seen through a hole of about 4 square feet in the skin of a back wall and a piece of the same type of insulation was about 60 feet off the ground in a tree.

Power losses were sporadic again Sunday. About 700 Entergy meters, down from a peak of about 4,000, remained without power this morning and all were expected to be back on by Tuesday, district manager Don Arnold said.

Today, the American Red Cross was preparing to establish a center, probably at Porters Chapel United Methodist Church, to distribute vouchers for food, clothing and cleanup to people whose homes were affected, executive director Beverly Connelly said.

“We’ve got damage-assessment people out now,” Connelly said this morning, adding that an initial estimate was that about 40 homes were flooded.

Low river stages sped the runoff, Callaway said.

“Once the rain quit falling it drained on out pretty quick,” Callaway said.

Many streets were closed for varying periods during the flooding. The Raworth YMCA branch on Fisher Ferry Road was flooded, reportedly with three feet of water inside, and homes in other city areas may have been damaged. The city’s sewage-treatment plant on Rifle Range Road and an adjacent Entergy substation were both flooded. James “Bubba” Rainer, public works director, said city workers had made unsuccessful attempts to sandbag the facility. Its output is discharged into the Mississippi River and the flooding there posed no hazard to the public, Rainer added.

In addition to surveying new damage, the Red Cross was operating two shelters. About 53 evacuees, down from a peak of about 147, remained in two area churches Sunday, Connelly said. Open were Hawkins United Methodist Church, 3736 Halls Ferry Road, with 25 people, and Calvary Baptist Church, 2878 Old Highway 27, with 28, Connelly said.