Deadly Meridian tornado recalled 74 years later

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Brothers Robert (Nate) McMullen, 88, and Albert (Hack) McMullen, 84, survived the tornado of Feb. 12, 1945, that completely destroyed their home in the Vimville community.

Tuesday, Feb. 12 marks 74 years since a tornado ripped through Lauderdale County leaving a path of destruction that killed five people before heading into Alabama.

An article on Feb. 13, 1945, in The Meridian Star states a tornado that struck south of Meridian on Hwy. 45 at about 4 p.m. cut a patch through the Long Creek-Causeyville-Vimville-Mt. Gilead area and then struck in the York, Livingston and Montgomery sections of Alabama; killed five and hurt 40 in Lauderdale County and caused 35 deaths in Alabama.

Two brothers Albert (Hack) McMullen and Robert (Nate) McMullen who were 10 and 14 at the time, were witnesses to the tornado that destroyed their home in the Vimville community, leaving them with nothing but the clothes on their back.

“I remember getting off the school bus that day and seeing that black cloud back in there,” Nate McMullen said. “Pretty quick Daddy gathered us up and took us to the storm pit. “I can remember one of the men saying to my daddy, “Robert, your house just went.

“It lifted our house in the air and it busted. When we came out of the storm pit, all we had left was what we had on.”

Hack McMullen remembers it being a cold rainy day when they got home from school around 3 p.m. There were five families who lived in the same spot where the McMullens lived, mostly family.

“My granddaddy had a storm pit across from our house and we all went in that storm pit, about 22 of us,” Hack McMullen said. “My daddy and uncle Percy had to stand in the spillway because there wasn’t enough room in the storm pit for them. One family, the Baygents, were in their house and it blew them up the road.

“When we came out there wasn’t anything, all five houses were gone. The strangest thing was an old straight chair was setting where the chimney was and it didn’t even move it. My uncle said it blew his globe off the lamp and the globe was sitting beside the lamp.

One of the things Hack McMullen said he remembers the most about that day – everybody being in that storm pit.

“When we got out all of us children were scared and crying,” McMullen said. “We all wanted to know if it blew Meridian away because we were scared we wouldn’t be able to get something to eat.

“It was a really hectic time but we all made it.”

Lois Johnson, who resided 7 1/2 miles east on Hwy. 19 in the Vimville community, gave this account of the tornado that struck around 3:30 p.m.:

Deadly Meridian tornado recalled 74 years later

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News clipping from The Meridian Star.

"I was standing on the porch at my father’s home and saw the storm coming. It was as dark as pitch and all we could see were boiling black clouds. Suddenly they broke and it seemed as though a dustpan had burst with black pouring from every direction. The noise was deafening. It sounded as though a gigantic train was approaching. A terrific thunderstorm was raging with mighty peals of thunder followed by blinding flashes of lightning. This continued for 15 minutes before the tornado broke in its fury.

“I went into the house where my parents, Mr. and Mrs. W.L. Johnson and Lester White were sitting. I had no more than gotten in the room when the storm struck the house and demolished it. We would probably have been killed had we not fallen to the floor. We were not injured.

“As soon as I could I went outside to see what had been done. It was raining in such torrents that I could not see my hand. I went up to my sister’s and found her home had been blown away. Her husband, James Boswell, and their little seven-year-old son, James Boswell Jr., were injured. My sister escaped injury.”

Facts about the 1945 tornado:

The Lauderdale County territory dead as stated in The Meridian Star, Feb. 13, 1945.

• Mr. and Mrs. Will T. Warren on Hwy. 45, south of Meridian, near the Jones store community.

• Mrs. Will L. Smith, 50, of the Causeyville highway section, Smith store community, east of Meridian.

• William A. McDowell of Meridian, Rt. 1, Hwy. 45 South, who was on a timber inspection trip with Edward Maness, 23, of Burnsville, North Mississippi.

• Asa Miller, colored, of the Vimville community.

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