Carlee House didn’t give the tornado warning a second thought.
The 76-year-old lady was safe inside her home, reading a catalog. She even told her son Mark there was nothing to worry about.
But after April 24, 2010, Carlee is the first to take shelter when something as simple as a threatening rain cloud hovers overhead.
The Yazoo County native has had to rebuild her home and life after the devastating tornado ripped down her road last year.
Carlee often has to take a moment to wipe away the tears when she reflects on the day the tornado hit. She had no idea that morning would change her whole life.
“I had been at my church cleaning up, and I didn’t know a thing about the tornado,” she said. “My son Mark was here and said, ‘Momma, there is a tornado warning.’”
Carlee was busy looking through a magazine. She had been through several warnings before, and nothing ever happened. She felt safe inside her home on House Road.
“I told him, ‘Oh, they tell you about those warnings all the time,’” she said.
Within seconds, the whole atmosphere inside her small home changed. Her son Mark came back into the room where she still sat reading.
“He said, ‘here it comes,’” she said, beginning to cry. “We got in the small hallway with a quilt over us.”
Carlee and her grown son huddled together in the tight hallway. They were frightened and unsure of what to expect with each passing second.
“Mark told me, ‘Momma, hold on,’” she said, still crying. “All we could do was hold onto each other.”
Carlee wasn’t sure what was going on above her. The quilt was her only shelter. Then there came the sound.
“It sounded like a jet,” she said. “It was really loud. Mark tried to get up and shut the door, but he couldn’t do it.”
A few moments passed, and Mark tried to calm his mother down. He told her it was over, but Carlee didn’t think so.
“No it’s not,” she said, reflecting back. “I could still hear it.”
When it was safe to emerge from underneath the quilt, the House family were shocked at what they found. The roof was completely gone. Debris was everywhere. Everything they possessed was damaged or gone.
“I could see the sky,” Carlee said. “There was glass everywhere.”
Shaking, Carlee and Mark made their way outside. They wanted to check on other family members down the road but couldn’t get very far.
Once outside, Carlee saw just how bad it really was.
“We didn’t have trees anymore,” she said. “It was nothing but stems. And my house was gone.”
Carlee’s home was her life. Nestled on 80 acres, the House homeplace was a secluded area in the Midway community. There were memories in the land, the home and even the trees.
“See those pecan trees,” Carlee asked, pointing to splintered remains. “My brother planted those when he was 13 years old. Now, look at them.”
Carlee and her family moved into their home in the 1970s. It was destroyed in a few seconds.
“So many were worse off than we were,” she said. “We didn’t have a scratch on us.”
It was time to rebuild both Carlee’s home and life. And there were many who wanted to help her.
“I am so appreciative of everyone who came out here,” she said. “I am so thankful for all their time and love.”
Pat Brock, with the Yazoo Humanitarian Recovery, said the House home became a hub of activity with volunteers, students, friends and family.
Brock said she remembers the first time she saw Carlee after the tornado.
“She had long plastic strips of screws and nails,” Brock said. “She was taking each one off individually. She said, ‘this is the job they gave me to do.’ She was sitting there, doing what she could.”
Carlee said her son John and son-in-law Lofton Pigg were very instrumental in constructing her new home.
Carlee said she remembers when a group of men from Texas showed up in July, ready to work...in the Mississippi summer heat.
“Those guys showed up with long black britches on,” John said. “I thought they didn’t stand a chance. But they really worked.”
Carlee’s new home was open to the public last weekend. She is excited about its completion, but she jokes that she wishes it wasn’t a tornado that pushed the remodeling project.
“I do really love it,” she said, touching her new countertop. “They have fixed it up so nice. And it’s warmer than my old house.”
Her son John lets out a laugh. He seems to agree.
“When I was a little boy, I would freeze my tail off,” he said. “I made sure everything got insulated this time, even the floor.”
For a lady who lived through a tornado and rebuilt her life, Carlee is in good spirits. She may cry thinking back to the devastating day. But she’s happy to be alive and have what she’s got.
Brock said when she sent a picture of the completed house to a group of volunteers who helped, she left a message with it.
“This is the house your love built,” Brock said.
And with Carlee’s sweet smile and welcoming nature, her love will keep it warm through any storm.