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Workers cut away trees on 17th Avenue between 16th and 17th Street on Sunday, a day after a tornado ripped through Meridian.

As Willie and Sheila Amerson faced their home, still standing under a fallen tree on Sunday, they were at a loss. 

During an EF-2 tornado that tore through Meridian around 11 a.m. Saturday, Sheila Amerson had been sitting on the couch with their chihuahua, Sandy, when she heard one tree, then another, then another fall on their home. 

"There's a leak in the living room and the whole house is filling with water," Sheila Amerson said on Sunday morning. "Right there under the tree ... that's where I was sitting on the couch."

Willie Amerson said someone stole his brand-new lawnmower and ladder after the storm went through. Without a saw and ladder, he's unsure how to begin to clear the fallen trees. 

"I'm trying to clean up... trying to move the limbs," Willie Amerson said. "I don't know what we'll do."

"I was standing right there in the house," Sheila Amerson said. "I can't even get it out of my head."


Whitney Downard / The Meridian Star

Willie, left, and Sheila Amerson stand in front of their 17th Street home, which was damaged by Saturday's tornado. 

The Amersons were one of many families cleaning up on Sunday near the intersection of 17th Street and 20th Avenue.

Amanda Brown, just across the street from the Amersons, was babysitting children when the storm hit.

"We were fixing to walk to Anderson's (Hospital) for lunch when I looked outside," Brown said. "I told them, 'We're not going anywhere. Get in the closets.' "

Brown said the storm was so strong it tore her screen door out of her hand and tore up her carport. 

Clean Up

Whitney Downard / The Meridian Star

Leroy Powe, right, helps his neighbor clean up their yard while Collinsville Fire Department volunteers, Dewayne, center, and Robert Dodd, use a chainsaw to cut down the tree in the background. 

"The roof on the carport rolled back like someone was tearing up a can," Brown said. 

Public Works employees from the City of Meridian and Mississippi Power workers wandered the neighborhoods on Sunday, clearing roadways and removing fallen power lines. Some families in the area still didn't have power. 

Doug Stephens, the director of the Public Safety Training Facility, credited employees from the city, county, utilities and other agencies for their work and response. 

The city had already received 20 calls for damage assessments within the first two hours of the city's hotline, Stephens said. 

"We're breaking calls into priority listings and responding to the most important," Stephens said. 

Stephens said that city workers cannot go on public property for removal efforts and they were focusing on public streets and power lines.

"We've assembled a team in joint effort with (Mississippi Emergency Management Agency), Lauderdale County, Clarke County and City of Meridian to go out to do damage assessments," Stephens said. 

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Workers cut away trees on 17th Avenue between 16th and 17th Street on Sunday, a day after a tornado ripped through Meridian.

Damage assessments can be used to apply for federal funding, but Stephens referred questions about funding to MEMA.  

For those without a place to stay or in need of food and water, the Red Cross has established a shelter at the Central United Methodist Church on 23rd Avenue.

The agency said it served approximately a dozen families Saturday night and encouraged other displaced residents to come Sunday night.

The Red Cross can also assist with damage assessments but doesn't assist with tree removal, volunteers with the agency said Sunday. 

"We've identified a mass care need in Lauderdale County and Meridian," Jeff Justice, with the Red Cross, said. "We're doing the best we can right now to help alleviate their suffering."

To report damage to the city, call (601) 485-1944.

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