Wren responders reflect on 2011 EF-3 tornadoes | News

WREN – Within 12 hours, Wren was struck with two EF-3 tornadoes April 27, 2011. Whereas the 3 a.m. storm damaged several homes, the 3 p.m. storm cut a more destructive path.

“So much had happened in Smithville that they didn’t know Wren had been hit at all,” said Wren Volunteer Fire Chief Amanda Brown of the afternoon tornado. “A lot of people say it doesn’t affect you but with a lot of people, when these tornado sirens go off, it does something to me. It does something emotional. It’s not like I’m scared or anything, I guess the sound of it makes you emotional.”

According to the National Weather Service-Memphis, Wren’s first EF-3 tornado of the day originated at 3:05 a.m. at the Webster/Chickasaw county line. Its estimated peak wind speed was 140 miles per hour, and its maximum width was one mile. The tornado’s path was 59.9 miles.

Wren’s second EF-3 tornado originated at 3:04 p.m. as part of a 49.9-mile path. The tornado began in extreme southeastern Calhoun County and ended at Highway 6 near Bigbee. The estimated wind peak, according to NWS data, was 150 miles per hour with a maximum width of three-fourths of a mile.

Overall, the afternoon storm resulted in seven fatalities and seven injuries, according to the NWS.

“Our yard was a disaster with the first one. I told my brother, ‘Well, they say we’re supposed to get some more this evening, but I don’t see how it could be any worse than it is. Well, that was a wrong mistake I made to open my mouth,” said Cheryl Mays, who is the secretary/treasure of the Wren VFD.

With the afternoon storm, Lynn Davis, 55, of Okolona was killed after his truck was picked up from Highway 45 Alternate and dropped behind a home in the Darden community on the edge of Monroe County.

The Wren VFD serves 46 square miles, and firefighters assisted in Chickasaw County. Ten years ago, the Wren VFD had a little more than 20 volunteers. Immediately following the storm, several other Monroe County volunteer fire departments provided mutual assistance.

Parts of Wren impacted by the storms included Dryden Lane, Wren Cemetery Road, Chapel Grove and Highway 45.

“We ran food out to the guys in the field and marked the houses and made sure nobody was there. We had to go on walk-throughs when the buzzards flew to make sure nobody else was missing,” Mays said.

Mays said people in the nearby Darden community alongside Chapel Grove Road lived in tents after the tornado. She recalls another firefighter’s description of seeing mobile homes in the air as it passed by the fire department.

Mays and Brown described scenes of downed trees, impassible roads and damaged homes. They couldn’t recall any other comparable event the fire department responded to before and since April 2011.

Volunteers had a long-term presence in the months to follow, from sawing trees, cleaning debris, working at the distribution center at the community center and cooking for those impacted by the storms.

The tornadoes taught members of the Wren VFD to prepare for the worse and practice through drills. It also reinforced the kinship among responders.

“That little saying that they tell you when you go through fire training, ‘Never leave your partner behind,’ and that’s the way we look at it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Cedar Creek firefighter, an Amory firefighter, you never leave your brothers and sisters behind,” Brown said.

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