Hazelhurst, Harrisville, St. John's, White Oak, MS Tornado Damages, Jan 1969
AT LEAST 31 DIE AS TORNADO STRIKES CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI.
Hazlehurst, Miss. (UPI) -- Deadly tornadoes cut through the heart of souther Mississippi's gently rolling hill country at sunrise today, tossing homes and cars about like playthings and killing at least 31 persons.
Countless others were missing. Rescuers dug frantically through settlements destroyed in the terror of the dawn in search of more victims.
The Mississippi highway patrol said there were 10 known dead in Hazlehurst in Copiah county where 30 to 35 homes were damaged and about 20 demolished; another 14 were reported dead in neighboring Simpson county; and seven more person, four members of the same family, were killed when their house in White Oak in east Mississippi was destroyed.
The hospital in Hazlehurst treated 115 persons and transferred others to neighboring hospitals. The hospital in Mendenhall, the Simpson county seat, also reported it was sending casualties to nearby hospitals.
"I stood in the door of my restaurant and watched it," said C. LELL FENTER of Hazlehurst. "It was not good daylight and it sounded like four freight trains coming through town. The air was filled with debris and the wind was really blowing."
The Red Cross in Atlanta said it was dispatching three disaster specialists to Mississippi to aid in rescue operations.
The area in Hazlehurst hit by the tornado was a Negro community located in a valley near a large sawmill.
MRS. EDNA KNIGHT said she was asleep in her home with her husband, their two daughters and two sons when, "I heard an awful sound. I thought Lord, there's the mill whistle and the boys are going to be late for work."
She said the house then began shaking and she realized it was a tornado.
"I throwed myself over the girls and then I tried to shove them under the bed. The house was lifted and twisted on the foundation."
An ambulance driver, CHESTER WHITE of Brookhaven, one of the first persons on the scene, said "there was a body lying beside the road and another in the hollow when I arrived."
He said he later found the body of a woman. "She was blown about 200 yards from the highways, tangled up in the vines."
The U.S. Weather Bureau at Jackson -- 30 miles to the north -- said the tornado cut a gigantic gap more than a mile long and a half mile wide through Hazlehurst, then rose into the sky and was traced by radar into adjoining Simpson county where it struck the Harrisville, St. John's, Mendenhall area.
The Simpson county sheriff's office said "the little community (of St. John's) was destroyed, killing five persons." Another "five or six" were killed in Harrisville, the spokesman said.
Near St. John's, a school bus was overturned by the violent winds, injuring a number of students, but killing none.
The tornado cut through paths of twisted trees, homas and road signs, shattering houses and buildings.
After passing through Simpson county it was tracked by the Weather Bureau into Kemper county where radar echoes showed it probably spawned at least two more twisters.
Later in the morning, more than an hour after the first tornado hit Hazlehurst, the highway patrol said a tornado struck in Smith county in east Mississippi, near the community of White Oak. A home was demolished and its four occupants killed.
The Delta Democrat Times Greenville Mississippi 1969-01-23
Partial List of Casualties From the Tornadoes
From The Delta Democrat Times Greenville Mississippi 1969-01-24
MRS. CALLIE TULLOS, 77.
MRS. BERNICE CASTON, 45.
MRS. LILLIE BELL, about 70.
MRS. ANNIE DRUMMOND, about 47.
KENNETH EARL DRUMMOND, about 12.
MYRTLE DRUMMOND, 17, (dead on arrival at a Jacakson hospital).
JERRY LEE McCULLUM, 9.
OLEN TIDWELL, 42.
MRS. ELIZABETH TIDWELL, 40.
WALTER ED BUCKLEY, about 60.
MRS. WALTER ED BUCKLEY, about 60.
ALLEN TAYLOR, 65.
MRS. LOUVENIA TAYLOR, about 60.
CAROL B. LENOIR, 2.
MRS. JIGGS ASHLEY, 35.
MRS. GRADY CLIBURN, about 60.
E. WAYNE CARBER, about 26.
BILLY FRED PERKINS, 17, (DOA at Jackson hospital).
WILLIAM SMITH, (DOA at Jackson hospital).
MRS. ESSIE SMITH.
MRS. PEARL SMITH.
MRS. FLORENCE SMITH and son, WAYNE.
MRS. EUGENE SHOWS and son, JEFF.