Mississippi mansion destroyed by Christmas tornado - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Mississippi mansion destroyed by Christmas tornado

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A tornado destroyed this mansion in McNeill, Miss. A tornado destroyed this mansion in McNeill, Miss.

McNeill, Miss. - There are many pictures of The Cynthia before Christmas Day.  The photos show a pristine lawn, stately white columns and ornate glass and woodwork.

Now it's a shattered mess.  An EF-3 tornado tore the mansion apart Christmas Day.

Cindy Williams, her daughter-in-law and two grandchildren were getting ready to celebrate when the sky turned black.  They ran to the laundry room.

"When we came out, I could hear the desperation in my son's voice," says Williams. "When we were in the laundry room and I knew it had to be bad because I could hear how desperate sounding he was because he didn't know if we were alive or not."

Williams' entire family made it through without a scratch.  But their home is a much different story. The back is gone. The second story is open air and stairs lead to a third level that no longer exists.

Family and friends spent the day searching for the antiques and personal treasures that survived.

"Some got water on them," says Williams. "We moved them out as quickly as we could. They were moving stuff when it was still storming and I'm like, it doesn't matter, just don't get hurt. So that's what we're doing, just trying to salvage what we can."

So many people have to start over.  Pearl River County officials say the tornado destroyed 17 homes in the area.

Word quickly spread through the community and donations poured in to the McNeill Volunteer Fire Department.

"We lost our home in Hurricane Katrina and my church family came together and we were able to build a home.  But everything in my house... church members came in and helped us with that and so we're passing the blessing forward," says volunteer Mary Hopkins.

The word "blessing" continues to be used in the town.  Buildings collapsed around the people inside but no one died in the storm.

"My husband let me build my dream home but you know what, it's just a house," says Williams. "My family, my grandchildren, my children, that's all that matters and god was so merciful and so good to us that I just can't thank him enough."

The fire department is no longer accepting donations of clothes. They're asking for household items, toiletries, furniture and gift cards. Donations can be dropped off at the fire station on Library Street in McNeill.

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