Easter Sunday tornadoes decimate parts of county, kill two
Parts of southern Lawrence County were decimated Sunday afternoon by two tornadoes that roared through the area, killing two residents of the Tilton community.
Lawrence County Deputy Robert Ainsworth and his wife, Paula Mullins Reid Ainsworth, died when their mobile home was demolished by a tornado that crashed through Walthall, Lawrence, and Jefferson Davis counties.
Ainsworth had been a Lawrence County deputy for years and was well thought of by the community and his co-workers.
Sheriff Ryan Everett said everybody liked him and the tragedy has hit his department really hard.
He thanked everyone for what they have done to support the Ainsworth family and the Lawrence County law enforcement family in the aftermath of Sunday’s events. He especially thanked emergency responders, including volunteer firemen, ambulance personnel, and everyone else in the county,who stepped up to assist Sunday afternoon.
He also thanked everyone for food that has been delivered to the Sheriff’s Office. “The support has been overwhelming,” Everett said.
According to Lawrence County Emergency Management Director Tony Norwood, two tornadoes tore through Lawrence County Sunday afternoon. The first went through the Tilton community, destroying the Ainsworth property, then picked up and touched down again in Jefferson Davis County.
Norwood said the National Weather Service currently has that tornado classified as an EF3, but officials are planning another look to try to determine if it might have been a stronger storm.
The area around the Ainsworth home looked like a war zone following the storm. The road was reduced to a trail after a path was cleared through downed trees. The home was totally destroyed and trees in the area were twisted, shattered, and uprooted.
The second tornado was described by Norwood as a “wide, high three” storm. The majority of the damage from that tornado was in the Oakvale community and involved two chicken farms, both totally destroyed. Also, the homes of the owners received major damage or were destroyed.
The county sustained major agriculture damage, including the poultry farms and timber destruction, Norwood said.
Damage from the storms listed by Norwood include three homes destroyed, five with major damage, five with minor damage, and one affected by the storm. Affected structures have damage such as a few shingles blown off or damage to a porch but are still livable.
Norwood said there were also four mobile homes destroyed, one with major damage, two with minor damage, and multiple units affected by the storm.
He said county supervisors are trying to assess and clear debris from the damage. They are awaiting a determination from Federal and Mississippi Emergency Management Agencies as to whether the county will qualify for any assistance in cleaning up debris and whether homeowners will receive any individual assistance.
Norwood also commended the volunteers who have stepped up to assist with the tragedy. He pointed out that people from as far away as Hancock County have offered help and food has been sent from as far as Natchez. He specifically mentioned local volunteers and the Tri-County Volunteer Fire Department in the corner of Lawrence, Marion, and Jefferson Davis counties, thanking them for their help.
On a note of caution, Norwood urges everyone to remember we are still fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and everyone should practice social distancing to the best of their ability, keeping a minimum of six feet between people and not congregating in groups of more than 10. Even in a disaster such as the one Sunday afternoon, social distancing should still be a priority, Norwood said.