Smithville Clinic Marks Ten Years Since Deadly Tornado

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SMITHVILLE, MISS. (WCBI) – Tuesday marks the tenth anniversary of one of the darkest days in Mississippi.

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An EF 5 tornado struck Smithville.

Sixteen lives were lost, homes and businesses were destroyed, along with the town’s only medical clinic.

Marilyn Summerford remembers specific details of April 27th, 2011, such as tornado sirens going off throughout the day, and a conference call when she was told a tornado was headed to Smithville.

“As I looked out the window you could see cars rocking, in the driveway and trees, see them start rolling, we took cover in a hallway, and the thing I always remember is pressure like it was being sucked out of the building, windows were breaking,” said Summerford.

Within seconds it was all over, and the town’s only medical clinic was in shambles, but that didn’t stop doctors and nurses from caring for the wounded. The clinic worked out of modular units for three years.

In 2014 on land that was donated by a church, Access Family Health Services opened its new location a quarter-mile away. It is the primary care provider for many in the area and it serves many low-income residents.

“We opened an in house pharmacy so our patients have access to affordable drugs, as a community health center, we serve a large population that live below 200 percent of federal poverty level, we have patients that are uninsured and we have patients that a normal physician’s office sees,” she said.

As tragic as the events were of April 27, 2011, Summerford said the tornado, and its aftermath, helped Access Family Health Services prepare for a different kind of crisis.

“One of the most important things I think was communication because it was very important after tornado we maintained communication with our partners and people in the community to let them know what was going on, what to expect and that’s been one of the most important things with Covid, so much fear and uncertainty, being able to use some of the same processes we used to recover from the tornado,” Summerford said.

Along with its medical care, Access also provides Covid 19 vaccines. Summerford says the clinic, its staff, and community will always remember the events of ten years ago, how everything can change in a few seconds, and the importance of persevering.

Access Family Health Services also operate a Farmer’s Market as part of a partnership with Catholic Charities.

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