Calm before the storm

While the April 28, 2014 storms ravaged Winston County, MS, the staff and patients of the Diamond Grove Center in Louisville waited on the edge of their seats as they prepared for what would become the worst storm in the county’s history.

By Daniel Brunty

April 28, 2014. This is the day that changed the lives of many in Winston County. Even with weather alerts and warnings being sent out the day before, nothing could prepare the residents of Winston County for the two deadly tornadoes that ravaged everything in its path.
With reports of multiple fatalities, missing persons, and a substantial amount of property damage, the EF4 tornadoes were the worst natural disaster to ever hit Winston County. In all, 10 fatalities were reported in Winston County alone.
On the same day at Diamond Grove Center, CEO Patrick Swoopes was contacted by Safety Officer Levi Moore about the incoming weather. Swoopes immediately informed the staff to prepare to activate the Emergency Disaster Plan.
“All of the employees did a great job immediately when the Emergency Disaster plan was activated and the Safety Officer was in constant contact providing accurate updates/information related to the EF4 tornado,” Swoopes said.
What follows is a timeline of events during the emergency response of Diamond Grove to the storms:
At 2:00 p.m. Swoopes received a weather alert on his cell phone, he then sent email to staff that had the farthest to drive to go ahead and leave.
At 3:45 PM. Brenda Wright, receptionist, called the “CODE WHITE” for a Tornado Warning over the intercom alerting all Staff personal that code white was activated and we were under a Tornado warning. At this time conditions were favorable for a tornado. Swoopes, AD Stacy Thames and PI/RM Ken Eiland were observing the weather conditions at the back door of the Administration building.
All Administrative staff and visitors reported to the conference room where a television is provided in this area to get coverage of the weather conditions. Residential, Acute patients, and staff were put in safe areas on the units. Swoopes, Thames and Eiland PI/RM then went to safe area along with other employees in the conference room where they continued to monitor the weather by TV and cell phone alerts. They alerted the units at 3:50 p.m. to 4:10 p.m. to ensure all patients were in safe areas and in-house communications were still available.
At 4:10 p.m. another alert stated that a tornado was spotted on the ground and headed to the Centeridge Community, which is south of the facility. At 4:20 p.m. Moore Swoopes spoke again by cell phone and Moore stated that from the radar image the tornado was about to cross Highway 15 approximately 200 yards from hospital traveling north to northeast. Swoopes and Thames then went to safe area along with other employees in the conference room where they continued to monitor the weather by TV and cell phone alerts.
At 4:30 p.m. Moore returned to facility after the weather conditions lifted. Swoopes noticed damage of awning in front of the Administration building. Moore conducted and scouted the outer perimeter of all other buildings, stating no visual damage was noted. At 4:45 p.m. patients got to come out of safe areas. All administrative personnel got to leave for home.
At 6:00 p.m. NOAA weather alerts sent out another “Weather Alerts Tornado Risk” and all patients were escorted back into safe areas that lasted about 20 minutes.
The TVA power grid was interrupted and water to the city of Louisville was also interrupted. Nurse Manager reported to Swoopes that there was no water available at the facility. At 6:23 p.m. a three way call with Swoopes, Moore and Evening Nurse informing Swoopes and Moore of loss of water to facility. After being briefed of water outage Moore responded by initiating emergency water use.
“This was the worst weather related event I have seen since the hospital opened in 1997.,” Swoopes said. “Diamond Grove Center was truly Blessed considering the tornado was an EF4, all employees and patients were safe, while the facility received minor structural damage with the tornado path only within 200 yards of the hospital.”
The staff was then directed to go to maintenance shop and retrieve drinking water for staff and patients. Plastic containers stored in shop were utilized to catch rain water for the use of toilets flushing.
During this event the facility experienced a power surge and power was lost to south Louisville area of Winston County due to the tornado that had damaged TVA power grid. The emergency generator started which services all of Residential, Acute and Administration buildings. The emergency generator continued to run until 1:30 AM. Normal power was restored 6 hours later.
The next day, Moore instructed maintenance personal to deliver 20 cases of water to the Dietary department. At 7:02 a.m. Moore notified Pearson Plumbing to order 6 Port-A-Jon’s, which were delivered within an hour. Moore then toured and inspected all building interior and exterior with no apparent damage except the front awning of the Administration Building. At 7:40 a.m. Moore notified Anthony Carroll, UHS Corporate Manager, of the facilities and briefed him on the situation and damage.
“The destruction was devastating and areas of the city were not as blessed,” Swoopes said.

Diamond Grove staff

Diamond Grove staff

In the wake of the storms, Diamond Grove has volunteered their time and effort to assist with others affected by the storms. “Diamond Grove Center employees and patients did assist several days with disaster relief and surrounding UHS hospitals offered assistance to us,” Swoopes said.
Thanks to the preventive measures taken by Diamond Grove, there were no fatalities at the center. After a review of the emergency exercise performed on the day of the storm, the evaluation of the staff at Diamond Grove was deemed to be “excellent.” This event also gave Diamond Grove the opportunity to test its emergency power operations for a long period of time and address areas of coverage that will need coverage in the future.