Owners Scramble To Repair Storm Damaged Businesses

Strong winds from a line of thunderstorms left a trail of debris down Dedeaux Road early Wednesday morning.

The storm damaged more than 20 businesses between Highway 49 and Three Rivers Road.

"This is horrible, oh God," said Rita Wagner, as she discovered a real life nightmare was showing at Movie Gallery.

Wagner works at the video rental store where storm winds tore through a back wall and left the business in ruins.

"I couldn't believe it. Because Winn Dixie hasn't even been touched. And we've got all of this damage. It's horrible," she exclaimed.

Repair man Jeff Spence measured missing windows for plywood panels. Ironically, he was scheduled to visit the store Wednesday to repair some soggy ceiling tiles. Now this.

"It's pretty amazing to see the damage here. I've never been this close to where a tornado has hit. We've had hurricanes come through and see the damage from that. But this was totally unexpected," said Spence.

Next door, the Union Planters Mortgage office got knocked off its foundation. One employee said it reminded her of Dorothy's house in the "Wizard of Oz", picked up by the storm and dropped someplace else.

"Turn around and go back. And come through the old Sav-A-Center," directed a Gulfport police officer to a confused motorist.

Police blocked off the storm damaged stretch of Dedeaux Road,  while an army of utility repair crews arrived to assess damages and begin repairs.

It seems the storm traveled nearly straight down Dedeaux Road, damaging many of the businesses between Highway 49 and Three Rivers Road. Most everyone echoed the thanks that no one was hurt. Roofs and siding can be replaced or repaired.

In the midst of the damage and concern, a moment of laughter back at the video store, when someone returns their movie.

"Oh, she's returning her DVD! Thank you very much. We'll try to make sure that it gets checked in," Wagner promised.

Merchants echoed the sentiment that it could have been so much worse.  The storm hit early enough that many people were still in bed, and most of the businesses had not yet opened for the day.