Storms hit parish, leave damage

Published 12:10 am Friday, January 27, 2012

ROD GUAJARDO / The Natchez Democrat — Dustin Birely lays tarp on the roof of his Ash Street house Thursday afternoon to cover holes caused by a large tree falling on his house during Wednesday’s severe storms.

VIDALIA — For Dustin and Holly Birely, Wednesday afternoon was just like any other day, until they came within inches of death.

After staying inside through heavy rains and strong winds in the early afternoon, the couple walked on their covered back patio of their Ash Street house to get the grill going and cook some quick hamburgers before going to church.

Holly was walking back toward the house from the back yard when she looked up and ran inside as quickly as possible.

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“I looked up and just saw the tree falling down,” Holly said. “It all happened so fast.”

Strong winds caused a large pine tree in their neighbor’s yard to crash down onto their house, carport and back patio, just inches away from where Dustin was grilling.

“That’s the closest I’ve been to death, that I know of,” Dustin said. “It was inches away from hitting me.”

Dustin said he looked up as the tree was falling and had the instinct to bolt toward the house, but by the time he started to move it was too late.

“I just didn’t move and good thing I did because if I would have jumped out I would have run out right in front of it,” Dustin said. “It just came down so fast.”

With the door closed and the blinds shut, Holly quickly opened the door to see Dustin standing without a scratch.

“I started shouting at him if he was OK, but he was still in shock because he didn’t say anything,” Holly said. “He finally just waved his hand and said, “I’m OK!”

After getting over the initial shock and rounding up their two frightened children Jenna and Jillian, the couple began inspecting the damage.

The back patio, which was covered by a metal roof, was caved in and only portions of the frame, where Dustin stood, remained.

The carport next to the patio was caved in, barely missing Holly’s van.

“We thought that was pretty much it until we got inside and noticed all the water coming into the house,” Holly said. “It’s just a mess.”

Several large holes in the roof caused water to pour into the house all night and left one room in particular flooded.

“Our daughter said, ‘You should see what it did to my room’ and we were joking with her saying that her room is always trashed like that,” Holly said. “We walked in and everything was soaked.”

Thursday morning and afternoon, the couple began cleaning up and attempting to cover the holes in case more rains came through the area.

Since their insurance agent wasn’t able to make it out until today, the tree had to stay put in order for the agent to assess the damage.

“He told us to leave that where it was, so he could look at everything,” Holly said.

With tarp and tape in hand, Dustin took to the ceiling to cover holes that were giving the family unnecessary showers.

As tree limbs were moved and the sun began to shine, Holly said she felt better about the situation.

“Now that I know it’s going to be OK, I feel a lot better,” Holly said. “Last night I was a mess.”

While it will take a while to get their lives back on track, both Dustin and Holly said they were lucky it was only minor damages to their home.

“We are definitely blessed,” Dustin said. “The Lord was watching over us last night.”

Heritage Manor

Large pieces of a covered patio and ceiling shingles lay scattered across the parking lot and front entrance of Heritage Manor in Ferriday Thursday morning.

Strong winds in the area managed to tear apart and throw an entire steel patio cover, including the concrete anchor post that held the patio in the ground, from the back area, up and over the roof into the front yard.

Administrator Eddie Crow said the roof sustained the majority of the damage, but he was glad everyone is safe.

“We had a few leaks inside the building, but we took care of that.” Crow said. “We were blessed that we had no injuries and that our residents did not have to be moved.”

The National Weather Service in Jackson estimated the peak wind gust in the Natchez and Vidalia area during Wednesday’s storm was approximately 35 mph with an estimated 2.5 inches of rainfall.

No tornados were reported in the areas of Natchez and Adams County or Vidalia and Concordia Parish.