1 year later: Recovery continues after EF2 tornado ripped through DeSoto County

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MEMPHIS, Tennessee — The third largest outbreak of tornados on record swept across the south on this morning one year ago, hitting parts of Arkansas and Mississippi. The aftermath caused an estimated $1.7 billion dollars in damage.

Mississippi saw its share of damage in four counties: DeSoto, Bolivar, Sunflower, and Washington.

Just minutes before 5:00 a.m. on January 11, 2020, an EF2 tornado with winds reaching 120 mph ripped through DeSoto County. More than 200 homes were damaged, several beyond repair.

One year later, families are still trying to recover from its path.

Hannah Allen remembers that morning well. She, alongside her husband and their four young children, crowded into a closet as the tornado went through in a matter of seconds.

Resurfacing from their home, Allen said it was when they saw the truck parked out front, no longer in the driveway, that they knew it was bad – but it wouldn’t be until the sun came up that they would see how bad it really was.

“As the light came, we realized the whole east wall had been sucked out from the house, not attached, about a three foot gap between the wall and floor,” she said.

Allen’s home was located along Allison Rd in Lewisburg, Mississippi. It was one of the neighborhoods that took a direct hit from the tornado.

The remnants of the storm can be seen on that street – from the missing tree canopy, a newly built home in place of a destroyed one, and the tarp that still clings to both sides of the Allen home.

In the 365 days since the tornado struck, the Allen family hasn’t been able to return home.

“It takes an emotional toll on your family to be out of your home for a year and everything you went through,” she said. “We have a house to live in and we’re thankful, but it’s not your home.”

They’ve been living in a rental after a long battle with insurance to cover the costs of the extended damage done to the home. That, Allen said, made a hard situation, harder.

“It’s really unfortunate that you pay for insurance, you pay your dues, your fees for so many years, or whatever they require from you, but then when something like this comes along that is catastrophic, instead of coming along with you and helping you like they should, it’s like, ‘well, we’ll give you a little bit’,” she said.

Insurance was eventually settled, but it delayed the start of the necessary repairs. She hopes they’ll be back in their home in the next 45 days.

“I think that’s one thing to remember is that everybody is not home, and in these uncertain times, that’s a big deal because you don’t have a home to go to right now,” she said.

Thankfully, no one was killed in DeSoto County that fateful day, but that same storm system killed 11 others across the south.

by Jalyn Souchek (2021, Jan 11) Local 24

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Kyrie Wagner