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Possible tornado damages houses in Centreville

JULIA NAGY | The Natchez Democrat — People help cut branches off the large oak tree that fell onto Dorothy Dixon’s house in Centreville after a storm blew through the area.

By JULIA NAGY

CENTREVILLE — The large oak tree that Christy Fortenberry used to climb as a child is now wedged between her mother’s living room and bedroom.

JULIA NAGY | The Natchez Democrat — A giant oak tree rests on Dorothy Dixon’s home near Howard Street in Centreville after strong winds blew through the area.

“Everything’s gone,” Fortenberry said, fighting back tears on Christmas Day. “I lived there my entire life. We’ve always been right here.”

The New Orleans National Weather Service is calling winds that sent the tree crashing into Christmas a possible tornado after severe storms blew through the area Tuesday afternoon damaging 12 trailers, two houses and causing one injury.

The weather service is sending out a team today to Centreville to survey the damage and say definitively what caused it.

Dorothy Dixon, Fortenberry’s mother, was having Christmas dinner with one of her daughters and was not in the home at the time.

When Dixon saw her house, located off of Howard Street, she was devastated.

The oak tree in the front yard shattered the small white house’s gray roof, and the roof’s fiberglass blanketed her bed.

“I saw the whole inside was on the floor,” Dixon said. “Everything is in there, all my belongings.”

On North Clay Street, a large tree crashed into Martha Cavin’s house, trapping her in the debris.

Emergency workers struggled at first to get to the house, due to downed trees, but were successful in rescuing Cavin.

Cavin walked away with only minor injuries, according to police.

Cavin’s neighbor Lewis Morgan was lying in bed when the storm came through.

“I heard a howl,” Morgan said. “And then hollering for all of us to get in one place.”

Fortenberry knew something was wrong at approximately 2:30 p.m. when she opened her front door and the sky was white.

She said the rain started hitting the windows sideways and the family ran to the closet for safety.

Huddled together, they prayed.

“I was just trying to get them safe,” Fortenberry said. “I’m so glad (my mom’s) OK. If she were here, she would have checked on the dogs and would have been right there where the roof’s on the bed.”

Police Chief James Reese said approximately half of the town was without power Tuesday night.

Getting the electricity on was his top priority, given temperatures were dropping and expected to be cold today.

Law enforcement and emergency personnel from Wilkinson and Amite counties helped law enforcement in Centreville.

“I just want to thank everybody that came out here to help,” Reese said. “In all the years I’ve lived here, I don’t remember a tornado doing this much damage.”

Even though Dixon’s home of 48 years is damaged, she said she’s still thankful.

“We’re blessed to be alive,” Dixon said.

In Adams County, wind speeds reached approximately 60 mph and between one and two inches of rain fell, according to the Jackson National Weather Service. Downed trees were reported near the airport, but no significant damage had been reported to authorities by late Tuesday.