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Residents sift through debris

By Staff
Nov. 26, 2001
MADISON (AP) Federal officials were to tour damage left by weekend storms today, as residents continued cleanup efforts from tempests that destroyed 87 homes in Mississippi.
Smiling as he sifted through his home's rubble Sunday, David Dykes took the Coke can he'd just finished and threw it on the floor where his living room used to be.
This is my house. I'll throw my trash where I want,'' Dykes joked to his wife.
Dykes could smile only because he considered it a miracle his family and most of his neighbors were even alive. Saturday morning an F4 tornado with 200 mph winds tore through his Madison County neighborhood.
The massive twister was part of storm system that killed five and injured 112 in Mississippi. Four each in Alabama and Arkansas were also killed by the storms.
Forty-seven homes were destroyed in Madison County. Forty others were destroyed elsewhere in Mississippi.
Joking with friends as they scrounged through his home's debris for photo albums, Dykes said broken tradition was a saving grace. It was his family's turn to host Thanksgiving, but he, his wife and two kids instead traveled to Alabama.
Yesterday was pretty emotional. Today you've got to see the humor in it,'' Dykes said. The fact of the matter is if we'd been home, we'd be dead.''
Madison County Sheriff Troy Trowbridge said a tornado siren just a mile from Dykes' upper-middle class neighborhood and the Thanksgiving weekend saved lives.
A lot of people just weren't home, thankfully,'' Trowbridge said.
Two deaths were attributed to the Madison tornado. Two people also died from storm related injuries near Sledge in the Mississippi Delta. Another death was recorded in Panola County.
Residents were also sifting through wreckage in Sledge Sunday, Mayor Lorenzo Windless said. Utility crews were working to restore power in the area, he said.
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove has declared a state of emergency in nine counties.
Musgrove said Sunday he was impressed how swiftly neighbors, friends and emergency workers responded to the disaster.
All responded immediately in a sense of helpfulness and hope for their neighbors,'' Musgrove told The Associated Press. That's the Mississippi that I know and am proud of.''
Musgrove said he would request federal assistance from President Bush Tuesday after the Federal Emergency Management Agency finishes its assessment.
Our people are hurting and need help,'' Musgrove said.
Sheriff Trowbridge said at least three busloads of church groups arrived to help families pick up in Madison Sunday. The Salvation Army and the Red Cross were stationed there, and Cellular South provided free phones.
The Dykes family rushed back to Mississippi Saturday after a friend called with the news. When they arrived, the family burst into tears, she said, in part because the home was completely gone, and in part because 25 friends were already there, trying to find valuables.
Sunny skies Sunday and the smell of pine from shredded trees helped put a smile on David Dykes' face. Already he had found his wedding ring in four feet of rubble in his neighbor's yard.
There's been some spoofing between all of us that we've got 72 hours to clean up each other's properties before we start charging storage fees,'' Dykes said.