By Kevin Edwards and Andy Collier
BC Staff Writer and Sports Editor
The Mississippi Delta was hit with a major storm system in the very early hours of Saturday that left severe damage in its wake.
The National Weather Service in Jackson reported on its Facebook page a radar reading showing a severe thunderstorm moving into the area “capable of producing tornadoes and damaging wind gusts.”
As surveyors make their way to the Delta to assess what happened, residents are left to assess the results.
“We did have some major damage,” said Michael Lamb, director of the Bolivar County Emergency Management Agency.
Lamb said he has been working with county officials and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency to help as many people as possible.
“We’ve had some farm headquarters that lost a lot of property and were hit hard with major damage,” Lamb said. “We have some residential areas that have major damage. We had some people that were actually trapped in some mobile homes that we had to evacuate, and they were hospitalized.”
However, Lamb reported there were no fatalities.
Cleveland Public Works Director Ray Bell said his department was able to address cleanup within the city quickly.
Bell said there were several downed trees that were dealt with in the early morning on Saturday.
The Public Works building is without phone service as of Monday but Bell expected that to be addressed soon.
“We had some minor damage up here at our place,” Bell said. “The rest of the city, as far as I know, nobody reported anything.”
Cleveland Fire Inspector Greg Jackson said his department was “blessed” that they received no fire-related calls during the storm and praised Cleveland Public Works for cleaning up the city.
“I actually came out at about 5:30 a.m. right after the storm. (Ray Bell’s) crew was already up and at ‘em getting after it, had trucks out,” said Jackson.
“A lot of the real major damage was north of us although Cleveland did suffer some trees down and some damage to some buildings. Everyone was really careful.
“Had we needed to respond, we would have been able to, due to their quick response. Police department as well. People hunkered down and all but emergency services were out and about. We were blessed to not have to roll these trucks but a lot of that is due to good decision-making on the citizens and some good preparedness that’s already been in place.
“Most of the communities, the power is back restored,” Lamb said. “Electric companies are still out working trying to get the rest of it restored that is not restored.”
As of Monday, Cheryl Comans with Entergy said there are an estimated 4,700 customers still without power in Bolivar County and parts of Sunflower and Tallahatchie County.
A spokesperson with Delta Electric also said there was a number of customers without power, especially in rural areas.
She said Monday crews were doing their best to get power back residents.
A defining example of the damage could be seen on Mississippi Hwy 8 West from Cleveland to Rosedale with telephone pole after telephone pole either fallen flat to the ground or snapped completely.
“At the beginning of the storm, overall for this area, 250 poles were down,” Comans said. “Of the 250 poles that were down, 120 of them were between Cleveland and Pace and Pace and Rosedale.”
“We sustained a pretty good hit to our distribution area in part,” Comans said. “We also sustained some significant damage to our transmission system. The transmission powers the substations which the substations then powers all the circuits.”
Comans said repairs are being done around the clock and that for most of the area, power has been restored.
“We have spotted areas that still are without power. All of the substations are running except for Stringtown and Ruleville.”
“Anybody that can take power should have power by Tuesday at 10 p.m.”
There were many homes that suffered anywhere from fallen limbs in the yard to structural damage.
Debris and trash were scattered outside the Bolivar County Regional Correctional Facility with downed telephone wires blocking one of the facility’s entrance roads.
According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman and the Bolivar County Regional Correctional Facility in Cleveland lost power early Saturday morning and were operating with generators. Bottled water and food had been provided at both.
“We are thankful that no injuries were reported among the staff and inmates,” Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall said.
Power has been restored to BCRCF. Both the sheriff and warden were not in the office Monday and were not available to comment.
On Rosemary Road, telephone polls were leaning hard to one side with at least one snapped.
By Monday morning, these polls had been straightened.
At Delta State University, the storms damaged fencing on the football, baseball, softball and soccer fields.
The lights suffered significant damage at the football field as one pole was completely snapped and collapsed.
One goal post on the football field was bent and the poles with the safety netting were collapsed and bent.
The press box at the football field suffered some exterior damage.
A good portion of the outfield fence at the softball field was blown down and the right field chain link fence and foul pole on the baseball field was bent.
At Bayou Academy, fencing was down on the baseball, softball and soccer field. Softball bleachers and batting cages took some damage.
At Cleveland Central High School, fencing on the baseball and softball field took some damage with a hitting cage turned over.