Metro area assessing damage from major hailstorm

JACKSON — A severe storm with large hail pounded the Mississippi capital and its suburbs yesterday, busting windows in cars, homes and businesses and temporarily leaving a blanket of ice on some parking lots and sidewalks.

Clinton Fire Department Deputy Chief Tim Shanks said firefighters responded yesterday afternoon to calls of two people hit in the head by hail. He said he did not have information on their conditions.

There were reports of downed trees or other damage in 14 counties, said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeff Rent. MEMA had no immediate confirmed reports of injuries.

Roads throughout the Jackson area were littered with broken limbs and pine needles, from the hail driving through trees. Cars could be seen driving along the interstate with broken windows and cracked windshields.

The Clinton Public School District said Lovett Elementary school will be closed today because of the hail storm but that classes will be held at alternate sites. Once buses have run their routes, students will be transported to different campuses. Students will be shuttled back to Lovett in the afternoon and car riders may be picked up at Lovett at the usual dismissal time.

“Roof damage has caused leaks in most every classroom,” said Sandi Beason, a spokeswoman for the Clinton Public School District. “Fortunately, no one was injured. The storm hit at the end of dismissal and nearly all students had left for the day.”

National Weather Service meteorologist Anna Weber said there were reports of hail the size of softballs in some areas around Jackson. Baseball-sized hail was reported in Jackson and its suburbs, including the cities of Jackson, Clinton, Madison, Pearl and Brandon.

“This is the time of year that we get hail storms, but hail this size is pretty rare,” Weber said.

By early evening, the skies were clear and the sun was shining over Jackson. The hail was quickly melting.

Glenn Ezell and his son were putting tarps on the metal roof of their mobile home in Brandon after the storm swept through the area.

“It started hailing big enough that it come through the roof and broke the sheetrock. It was as big as your fist,” he said.

The hail also broke a window and damaged screens, he said.

His wife, Brenda, said the noise was so loud inside the mobile home that they went outside on the porch.

“It sounded like the world was coming to an end,” she said. “I’m 55 years old and I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”

Rent said hail — ranging in size from golf balls to tennis balls — hit MEMA headquarters in Pearl.

“We’ve got a lot of damaged vehicles here at MEMA,” he said.

Rent said officials will try to take care of repairs quickly while also providing assistance to people who may need it. He said damage assessments are ongoing but so far local officials had not asked for state assistance.

Mississippians are accustomed to dealing with tornadoes and hurricanes but this much large, widespread hail is unusual for the state, Rent said.

“What I found interesting is that hail is the threat that we don’t talk about that much. But you can see how destructive it can be in a short amount of time,” he said. “We got a tough lesson today.”

Hinds County emergency management specialist Robin Garrard said the “damage is pretty much spread all through Hinds County with windows busted, car damage, that kind of thing.”

Weber said the metro area was hit by “a few super cells” that pushed out of the area to the south-southeast. A severe thunderstorm watch was in effect for parts of south and southeast Mississippi through 9 p.m. CDT, she said.

MEMA said the forecast called for the chance of damaging winds, hail and isolated tornadoes.

Rent said downed trees or other damage were reported in the following counties: Calhoun, Chickasaw, Clay, Grenada, Hinds, Itawamba, Lee, Lowndes, Monroe, Rankin, Tallahatchie, Tishomingo, Union and Warren.

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