Families left to pick up the pieces

Published 12:45 am Monday, May 4, 2009

Natchez — Jessie Lewis gathered a few items of clothing and walked out the side door of her North Concord Avenue house. She paused on the top step and took one last look inside. She sighed.

Lewis knew she wouldn’t be sleeping Sunday night in the place she has called home since 1974 and is not sure when she’ll be back.

But Lewis wasn’t prepared for this sort of vacation. No. Sunday started out just like most Sundays. She was getting ready for church. But this Sunday morning didn’t end with hymns and a sermon. It ended with a tree splitting her house in half.

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Lewis’ house, which she shares with her husband Bill Lewis and nearly 3-year-old grandson Kamden Lewis, was just one victim of the storm that tore through Adams County Sunday morning.

“When I heard the hail start, I took (Kamden) to the window so he could see it,” Lewis said. “Then the thunder started and the lights went out. The dark scared him.”

But Lewis said it could have been worse. Just a few short minutes before the large tree crashed through her house, she was sitting on a sofa that was directly in the path of the tree.

“I was getting him ready for church when I noticed that his pants needed to be pressed,” Lewis said. “We walked to the other side of the house to the iron.”

Now, with half of their house destroyed, the Lewis family is just waiting.

“We can’t do anything until an adjuster gets out here,” Bill Lewis said. “We’re headed to a hotel now.”

Unfortunately the Lewis family isn’t the only Natchez family that is seeking alternate shelter after the storm.

Across town on Arlington Avenue Dr. Jennifer Russ was also getting ready to move to a relative’s house after a tree fell through the front porch of her home.

Russ said when she left for church with her husband Kurt and their two daughters she knew a storm was on the horizon but never expected to see what she did when she returned home.

“When we left, the sky was green and black,” she said. “But we went on to church.”

After they drove the few short blocks to the church, the storm hit.

“We were sitting in the car when the hail started and the wind was blowing,” she said. “That was a scary experience.”

But not as scary as what was going on back home, she said.

The front of the house, which was built in the 1890s, is entirely blocked by the tree that now sits partially in her oldest daughter’s bedroom.

“When Kurt told me we had a tree on our house, I had a picture in my head of what that would look like,” she said. “It is much worse than I had pictured. I never expected to not be able to see my house at all.”

Despite the appearance of the outside of the house, Russ said the inside is relatively undisturbed.

“We just replaced all of our columns with fiberglass columns and that is what is holding the house up at this point,” she said.

Russ said during the ordeal, her family has remained thankful, because it could have been worse.

“I’m glad we weren’t here when it happened,” she said. “As scary as it was in the car, I’m glad we were there.”

And even her daughters aren’t too upset, she said.

“As long as the pets were OK, that’s all they were concerned about,” Russ said. “All three of them, a dog and two gerbils, were safe.”