Local residents relive harrowing moments from storm

Published 12:16 am Monday, May 1, 2017

NATCHEZ — A Natchez 15-year-old woke up to what sounded like a train going through Cloverdale Drive.

Hearing sticks and limbs hitting the residence, Cam’Ron Bailey jumped out of bed and ran into the hall to get away from the windows. Then, he remembered the giant oak tree over his grandmother’s room and ran down the hall to get her into a safe area.

“Me and my brother got her away from the trees and to the front of the house,” Bailey said. “A branch had snapped off the (Oak) tree, but luckily another tree held it up.”

Email newsletter signup

When it was clear the storm had passed, Bailey went outside in his raincoat to try to help neighbors. He found a tree had landed on the houses of each of the Emerick sisters, who live next door to each other on Cloverdale Drive.

“I know those people real well,” Bailey said. “They have helped us with stuff and they needed help.”

Julie Emerick said the rain woke her up before 6 a.m. and she got up to open the window to listen to the rain. Not long after, the lighting picked up and she saw her curtain get partially sucked through the window. Then came the loud noises.

“I was not sure if it was the trees crashing or more lighting,” Emerick said. “I got down on the floor next to my bed. I don’t know what I was thinking, but it made me feel better.”

When the storm calmed down, Emerick went to look and saw part of the roof on the backdoor from where the tree hit her house. Not long after, she saw her sister’s house, which had an oak come through her bedroom.

“(Jeri Emerick) works offshore with Shell,” Emerick said. “Thank goodness she wasn’t here because the tree came crashing through her bedroom. It would have been horrible.”

Emerick’s mother, Judy Wiggins, said she had been up at 6:30 a.m. watching the weather and worrying about if her daughter was safe when she received the call.

“Sure enough, they were OK,” she said. “I am a happy mother.”

Bailey was not the only person out helping, as around the corner on Cloverdale Road, Jon Betts and a group with First Baptist Church of Vidalia and Hometown Restoration were helping a group of four residences, which each received damage.

“This whole row was nothing but limbs,” Betts said. “We’ve put a dent in it.”

Betts said a group text amongst church members alerted them of the damage.

“It’s too close to not come,” Betts said. “The next time a tornado hits it could be in Vidalia and it’ll be us needing the help.”

One of the residents, Ricky Woolfolk, said he was appreciative.

“It’s been more than a blessing to have all these guys out working saws,” Woolfolk said.

Woolfolk said he awoke to the power going out and the sound of thunder nearby.

“I was thinking this must be a bad storm,” Woolfolk said. “Then it got calm, and it seemed like the air had been sucked out of the house like I was in a vacuum.

“I knew what that meant and I jumped up to get into my tub.”

Once the storm calmed down, Woolfolk went into his sunroom and could see that limbs had stabbed through the roof. A tree had fallen on the room, and he looked and saw the same had happened to his neighbors.

Woolfolk checked on them, and they also went to check on the neighbor’s mother, who lived a few houses down. On the way back, they stopped to help a lady who was standing in the street looking at the damage of her residence.

“It really blows my mind that no one was hurt,” Woolfolk said. “I’m going to have to replace a floor and repair a roof, but that’s just stuff and it can be replaced. Thank God everyone is OK because that’s what really matters.”

Joe Wimley of Vidalia was also thanking God Sunday morning over on Lower Woodville Drive. After looking at his daughter’s residence, he was thankful she and her two children were on vacation in Florida.

“You can’t get into the kids’ room,” Wimley said. “The pecan tree hit so hard the roof and the rafters are down in their bed. Those kids, who are 8 and 3, would be dead.”

Wimley said he was called by neighbors and friends to come look at the house.

“The house is ruined,” Wimley said. “We might can save some furniture. She doesn’t have any insurance. We’re going to need MEMA’s support.”

Back at the Emerick’s, a tractor had showed up to help clear debris from the area in hopes of helping the power company. Bailey, out at around 7 p.m. helping clear the driveway, said he’d been awake since 5:30 a.m.

“I have not stopped,” Bailey said. “I’m going to sleep well tonight.”

Emerick, as the clouds were starting to give way to sunshine, said she was appreciative of all the help she received.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s really a blessing that everyone has come together like they have. We have some great neighbors.”