Working the emergency in Newton

By Staff
WALL GONE The north wall of the Newton Fire Station was blown out as the storm made its way up Scanlan Street in Newton. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By William F. West / community editor
Dec. 20, 2002
NEWTON Alongside U.S. 80, Ike Robinson, 22, of Meridian was working the Salvation Army's emergency mobile canteen, which he said arrived about 2 p.m. about an hour after the F-2 tornado tore through town.
The Red Cross said a shelter opened at 6 p.m. at Christian Camp, located on Highway 15 North for those with no power or food.
Cheri Barry, director of the Key Chapter of the American Red Cross in Meridian, said she and her disaster team rushed to the scene as soon as they got word that Newton County was in trouble.
She said the Red Cross has gotten support from other chapters across the state and from Southern Baptists. She also said Meridian-based Metro Ambulance was on the highway immediately and heading to Newton to transport injured persons to Meridian hospitals.
Newton County Chief Deputy Billy Truitt, 62, was one of a group of law officers still guarding the Wal-Mart late Thursday afternoon.
Newton County Deputy Randy Patrick, 34, happened to be at the Texaco trying to refuel his car when the storm hit.
But Patrick said he wasn't scared.
He said the other thing that happened to him was that the wind slammed him back up against his car.
Patrick was also standing guard at the Wal-Mart.
Of the scene, he said, "Well, you see it on the news all the time in other places and then when it hits home, it really makes you think how the people were blessed that nobody, to my knowledge, got killed."
Even before the tornado struck, plans were being prepared to remodel the more than 41,300 square-foot Wal-Mart store, which dates to about 1978, said C.J. Stephens, of Bentonville, Ark., the location of the company headquarters.
Stephens, a construction manager with Wal-Mart's store planning division, said he was on the Interstate 20 exit ramp when the storm hit.
Stephens said he was disheartened, saddened and shocked by what he saw when he arrived at Wal-Mart.
But, he said, "We're very thankful that we didn't have any more injuries than we did. We're very thankful that we have no fatalities reported at this time."

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