Thursday, May 22, 2008
Snow Lake hit hard
By SUE WATSON
High winds that ruffled the state Saturday night, May 10, wreaked a lot of havoc across Marshall County but residents of Snow Lake community in Benton County took one of the worst hits.
Lake residents were busy cutting downed trees in their yards and over their residences last week and Holly Springs Utility Department made headway in getting power restored.
But cleanup was a real mess. It may take until summer to get brush and wood off the sides of the narrow streets in this little beautiful community.
Resident Faye Hutson, member of the Snow Lake Corporation board of directors, said “It looked like World War III broke out here.”
Mayor Laurie Pierpont, however, was all smiles Wednesday of last week and grateful for all the help getting streets cleared, power workers in to set new poles and pull lines, and that the water tank was full when the storm came through.
“They have done a fantastic job,” Pierpont said of Holly Springs Utility Department, general manager John Collins and supervisor George Humphreys.
“They have been so cooperative,” she said.
Collins called in utility workers from Tippah County and Chickasaw Electric in Fayette County, Tenn., to help get the areas cleared and downed utility poles replaced. HSUD crews worked madly trying to get power restored to the county in general, the substation back up in Ashland, and power restored to Snow Lake where the entire community, with the exception of just a few homes at the east entrance, was totally out of power until Tuesday.
Pierpont, elected mayor who has served one and a half years without pay, said the close-knit community pulled together to help with cleanup. There are only three municipal employees - the police chief Flake Farmer, Billy Briggs, who handles maintenance, and town clerk Sheri Tucker.
The storm took Snow Lake residents by surprise because there was no rain at the beginning and the wind blew the weather siren off the tower before it could do any good.
“We were really lucky no one was hurt,” said Pat Boston, office manager for Snow Lake Corporation. “Quite a few people have damage to their homes but it could have been a lot worse. The whole lake was knocked out of power and I was really thinking it would be the weekend before power was back on. But we had Tippah, Union and Holly Springs in here working.”
Buford Fuller, retired from Memphis Light Gas and Water after working as a lineman and district supervisor for 41 years, said the event was the biggest thing that has happened at Snow Lake except when the dam broke in 1989 and again June 12, 1998. Today he serves as treasurer for the corporation and has lived on the lake full-time since 1987.
Power was knocked out at about 9:15 p.m. May 10 and power was restored Tuesday evening for most parts of the lake. The water stayed on.
“The biggest thing we’ve had is inconvenience,” Fuller said. “There was a lot of generator noise all over the lake and you could tell the people had lights. We had a mess down here, but it’s cleaned up pretty good.”
Ed Sullivan was counting his lucky stars Wednesday as he watched HSUD’s Kenneth Feathers restring lines to his neighbor’s house. The only damage to his property, that sits on the lake, was a few small limbs that fell on the lake side of his property and a glass table top blown off his patio into his neighbor’s yard. A big tree was laying across the garage on his neighbor to the west side. Under the garage was his neighbor’s crushed car, and another vehicle outside the garage was also damaged.
Three large trees had toppled in the yard of his neighbor to the east, damaging the back porch area and the kitchen.
Sullivan said he had paid for buried electrical but the big tree uprooted on the lot line had driven the utility pole four feet into the ground and the tree laid on top of it, stopping the tree from doing more damage to his neighbor’s house than it would have.
“I was lucky as all get out,” he said.
He purchased a generator and was able to keep his septic water pumped uphill into the tank.
John Nelson and his friends Mike and Paul Burdette, felt lucky, too.
“We didn’t hear it,” Nelson said. “We went to the cellar.”
Besides having several big trees to clear behind and in front of his home, Nelson’s property was spared. His boat trailer parked in the front yard was pitched up into the air as a huge tree fell just feet from it.
Some boats on the docks were relocated. Nelson said he went to the dock to tie up a loose boat and the dock itself moved.
“Some docks were loosened,” he said.
Mayor Pierpont said volunteers started clearing the narrow streets as soon as the storm passed over. Fortunately, it was not summertime and the community conserved water until power was restored.
“We were concerned about looters and it is also dangerous to have people milling around (rubbernecking),” she said.
And no one was injured.
“A lot of people do what the weather service asks to do - get under the house, in the basement or in the hallway,” she said.
Right after the storm, the maintenance man and fire chief went to work clearing streets. The town clerk worked in the dark and was on standby, she said.
“We had a lot of cooperation, a lot of fire volunteers,” she said.
A resident of Snow Lake of eight years, Pierpont said she’s just learning the job. Retired from Bell South and a veteran who served in the Army 101st Airborne 3.5 years, the mayor said she loves the job and the people of the community.
“When I was just elected to this position, people weren’t sure about having a woman,” she said. “I’m not an office mayor. I get out there and help my maintenance man. My main thing is being outside where the people are and seeing what’s going on.”
“She’s a hands-on mayor,” said city clerk Sheri Tucker.
“We were more than lucky, we were blessed,” the mayor continued.
“We had the fire house open for hot showers (the fire house did not lose power because of its location). Getting reliable help was the community’s main concern.”
Board member Hutson, who worked as a systems analyst for Closures System International in Olive Branch, was by the mayor’s side throughout the ordeal.
She had been scheduled for an out-of-town work trip to the east coast, but it was cancelled Friday before the storm. Then her company granted her time off to help out with recovery efforts at the lake.
“God works in mysterious ways,” Hutson said. “The magnitude of the damage we had, it is just a miracle we got back up so soon.”
Mayor Pierpont was counting her blessings Wednesday.
The water system had not failed. Volunteer firefighters from Hickory Flat helped clear the streets Saturday night and Ashland Fire Department volunteers came out to help clear streets Sunday. Lake residents got out with their chain saws and rakes and neighbor helped neighbor.
Office manager Pat Boston said Snow Lake is proud of its community.
“We are a fire-wise community,” she said, “the first fire department in Mississippi to get it - in August 2007.”
Boston has lived on the lake for 22 years. About half the lots around the lake are occupied by permanent residents, she said, but every year more part-time residents are living in their homes full-time.
Mayor Pierpont said Benton County had sent crews to help clean limbs and debris Monday (of this week). Extra help with cleanup of the street sides is desperately needed on the west side of the lake.
The Marshall County Board of Supervisors Monday approved sending a crew to help Snow Lakers get the brush and limbs off the streets which are narrow and some areas down to one lane due to pileup of debris, Pierpont said.
Holly Springs Mayor Andre’ DeBerry promised to send a knuckle boom unit to Snow Lake on Wednesday of this week, she said.
Pierpont said residents worked over the weekend bringing large quantities of limbs and debris to street sides.
All electricity and cable TV services have been restored. Telephones were still out as of Tuesday.
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