Pearl River County scars healing from 2012 Christmas day tornado

PEARL RIVER COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Some people in Pearl River County know exactly what the folks in Columbia are going through. It was two years ago when a Christmas day tornado ripped through parts of the McNeill community.

More than two dozen homes were heavily damaged or destroyed in that 2012 storm. Fortunately, no one lost their lives. 

Recovery for Johnnie Lumpkin hasn't come easy. In fact, it's still a work in progress, two years after the Christmas day tornado turned her family's world up-side down. "It took half the roof, It took half of it off there and in the back it was completely off and all the ceilings fell in," said Lumpkin. 

The overall damage in Pearl River County was not enough to qualify for a federal disaster declaration. With no federal assistance, Lumpkin and her son had to make the repairs out their own pockets. "It's been a two year struggle but I'm almost there. I've got a few baseboards to put down on the inside and the outside is coming along, but it's been a struggle financially and mentally. But it will soon be over hopefully before next Christmas," explained Lumpkin.

Lynn Smith will celebrate her second Christmas in her new home. The powerful twister destroyed her home and her mother's house next door.

Reminders of the Christmas day disaster, like weather beaten Christmas decorations, are still evident on the property. "It was over in seconds but it was horrible. It was the most horrible thing and I've been through Camille, Katrina and all the other little hurricanes. But I've never ever been through anything like that," said Smith.

Her 89-year old mother survived the twister, but not without serious injuries after a wall collapsed on her. "My mother took a blow to her face which broke just about every bone in her face. It was just by the grace of God and I know that he put his arms around us and brought us through that," explained Smith, her voice cracking with emotion.

As the wounds were healing, recovery began to take shape. "Thanks to the Baptist Association that's the only way I made it," noted Smith. "Art Bolin took this over and built this house. And a lot of it was done by the good graces of people. About 75 families women, children and men came down from the Arkansas-Oklahoma area and framed this house up and put the roof, windows and doors in it, in five days."

She says it was the blessing that helped to put her back on her feet. 

Smith says ever since that tornado, she doesn't fear every watch or warning issued in her area. That's because her family has a plan. They all know they are to head to the bathroom in the center of the house when they are threatened by severe weather. 

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.