On Friday, April 15 at approximately 11:04am a tornado heading east touched down in the seminary townhomes in Clinton, just off of Clinton Blvd. Though the damage to the seminary townhomes was extensive, no one was hurt.
The seminary townhomes were just one of the many places in the path of this tornado in Clinton. The tornado, videoed here on YouTube destroying a BankPlus building near Springridge road just south of I-20, was massive. It did significant damage in Easthaven, the neighborhood just west of the townhomes, and approached the townhomes from the west. The first two rows of townhomes closest to Clinton Blvd took the brunt of the damage before the tornado continued east to Lakewood Memorial Park where many trees were uprooted or simply twisted off.
MDIV Senior Matthew Elliott had met to pray with MDIV Middler Tyler Goodwin in Tyler’s townhome on the front row, when they noticed that the rain had stopped and the lights were flickering. They walked out the door on the railroad side of the unit and noticed that the trees were blowing in two different directions. They went back through the unit, opened the south-facing door on the carport side, and looked right. Matthew reports, “We opened the door and saw it over Easthaven. It sounded like a train. We ran inside, jumped in the bathroom, and took cover in there.” They heard a rumbling outside, but it didn’t last long. “You could tell immediately that it left. We were in there less than a minute. It was moving so fast. It was over us for maybe 10 seconds, maybe less.”
MDIV Middler Trevor Almy and his wife Katie had just brought their family home from the hospital on Wednesday afternoon with the newest addition to their young family, a second daughter. They were still asleep with both daughters on the second floor when the tornado hit the townhomes. “My mother-in-law woke us up,” Trevor recalls. “We grabbed both girls and ran downstairs as fast as we could. By the time we got into the bathroom, the rumbling had stopped.”
Though the tornado passed by quickly, it left an enormous trail of damage in its wake. Many cars were damaged by falling debris or had windows shattered. Several large trees were twisted off while some were uprooted. Siding had been ripped off in multiple places—sometimes in small pieces and sometimes the whole side of a unit was stripped down to the bare exterior walls. Shingles had been torn off. Porches were removed. A board which had been turned into a projectile was sticking out of the side of a unit. Chimney pieces were lying in the road. Windows were broken. Debris was everywhere. Parts of the roof had been torn off in three different places. A little girl’s flip flops went in opposite directions and were found four units away (see a really cute video of Ella Henry talking about her flip flops and the tornado here). One student described the devastation at the townhomes simply as “shocking.”
The protection of life and property at the seminary townhomes in light of the other devastation in the path of the storm was remarkable—even providential. There was damage to cars from the wind and falling trees, and two residents whose roofs had been ripped off (and were subsequently covered with tarps) were moved to other units. Nevertheless, no one in the townhomes was injured in any way. First-year MFTC student Branden Henry reflects, “The majority of the places that were hit didn’t have people in them. The kids in the back row—and almost all of them were home—were protected. It was like the tornado took a weird turn.”
After the tornado passed by, residents emerged from their units and went door to door making sure everyone was okay. Several RTS staff arrived on the scene shortly thereafter. Sherry Lanier with MNA Disaster Response mobilized teams from several churches. Three MNA Disaster Response trailers arrived within hours from Mississippi Valley Presbytery, First Presbyterian Church of Crystal Springs, and First Presbyterian Church of Belzoni. MNA Disaster Response organized volunteers to help clean up from a host of area churches including Redeemer Presbyterian, First Presbyterian of Jackson, Pear Orchard, North Park, Providence, St. Paul, Trinity, Highlands, First Presbyterian of Yazoo City, Second Presbyterian of Yazoo City, and Madison Heights. Volunteers, residents, seminary students, and seminary staff worked together to clean up the trees, clear the debris, cover the chimneys, and begin covering the roofs with tarps. Later food was brought to townhome residents by Providence, Redeemer, Edwards Presbyterian, Raymond Presbyterian, and First Presbyterian of Learned.
We praise God for his protection in the midst of the storm. For pictures of the damage to the townhomes and the surrounding community, visit our Facebook page.