Howard County is continuing to dig out from the devastating tornado that moved through the area late Sunday night, killing two people in Nashville and causing extensive property damage.
The National Weather Service has classified the storm as an EF-2 tornado, which packed winds of up to 125 miles per hour. The two storm cells that merged over the area also produced close to four inches of rain, causing extensive flooding and damage throughout Howard County and in neighboring counties. Howard County Emergency Services Director Sonny Raulerson said that a number of culverts and roads around the county were washed out by the heavy rains.
Damage was reported from Columbus, located in the extreme southern portion of the Howard County, all the way to Highway 26, about seven miles north of Nashville.
The Mother’s Day storm hit around 11:20 p.m. Sunday and roared into the Nashville, area around Ramsey Hill Road, where the tornado touched down, according to the NWS, and hit the D&J Mobile Home Park on West Sypert Street.
The mobile home park is where Michael Mooneyhan, 28, and wife, Melissa, 29, were killed in their home as they sheltered their small daughter, one-year-old Emily. The child was discovered virtually unharmed underneath her parents when emergency crews began digging through the rubble that was once her home. The child is now in the care of a relative. (A benefit account for the Mooneyhan family has been set up at Diamond Bank.)
The couple was laid to rest Thursday at the Ozan Cemetery. (See the “Obituary” section no this website.)
The NWS survey stated the tornado, which was about 400 yards wide, tracked just under seven miles before lifting south of Highway 26 between Mount Pleasant and Drive and Corinth Road.
Four other mobile homes in the D&J park were also destroyed, hurting at least two other occupants. Monday, soaking debris, twisted trees, children’s toys and clothes and various household items littered the area, which is located just below R&J Supply. Utility workers were at work at the site and many somber residents sifted through the rubble of their homes.
Howard County Sheriff Bryan McJunkins said Howard Memorial Hospital treated a total of eight people with injuries – six of those were treated and released while the other two were transferred to another hospital for treatment.
The storm continued through the Nashville City Park and onto West Sunset Street and into the Greenwood Addition of northwest Nashville. Broken and fallen trees in the Greenwood Addition appeared to have done the most damage to the area’s houses and structures, unlike at the trailer park where the high winds caused Howard County Coroner John Gray to describe the destruction as “explosive.”
City and state police personnel have maintained a 24-hour roadblock on the only two streets leading into the Greenwood Addition. Mayor Billy Ray Jones said that persons wanting to go into Greenwood Addition will need to get a permit at the fire station. The permits will be issued for clean-up personnel and immediate family members of residents, but residents will not be required to get a permit. Jones added residents may call 845-8585 to schedule pick-up of debris.
At another mobile home park north of Nashville and adjacent to the Pine View Apartments, Mayor Jones said several trailers were also damaged.
Tuesday morning, a steady stream of volunteers and delivery vehicles continued to arrive at the Nashville Fire Station, which is the staging area for storm recovery. Mayor Jones was on hand to direct efforts, which also included numerous churches contributing labor and items. Tyson and Pilgrim’s and some of the churches have been providing meals for the volunteers as the recovery efforts continue.
Mayor Jones said the city would find “some way” to pay for the efforts to remove the large trees from private property and he discussed payment plans with Governor Asa Hutchinson when he visited Nashville late Monday afternoon. Currently, volunteers are cutting the bigger trees into manageable lengths, and logging companies are taking the heavy chunks to the street side for later pickup.
The governor met with other elected officials and emergency personnel at the fire station and declared Howard County, as well as nine other counties, a disaster area. The designation will make the city eligible for some state aid. Joining the governor were Mayor Jones, Howard County Judge Kevin Smith, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, State Sen. Larry Teague and State Rep. Justin Gonzalez.
Workers from many electric utility companies have been involved in the restoration of electricity. Mayor Jones said Tuesday he had been informed that the estimates of complete restoration of power might take longer than expected. But, Tuesday morning, the Nashville School District had power restored sooner than expected and classes were called back into session at 10 a.m. The Nashville City Hall and several businesses west of Nashville have not been open for the last two days due to the lack of power.
In addition to the injuries related to Sunday night’s storm, two volunteers out early Monday morning looking for washouts were hurt when they drove off into a washed out culvert south of Mineral Springs.
Extrication equipment was needed to get the driver, Marcus C. Bowman, 29, and the passenger, Reginald Marks, 39, both of Mineral Springs, out of their vehicle on Bright Star Road. The accident occurred at 5:25 a.m., according to an incident report.
Both men were transferred to Texarkana with injuries.