Mississippi family loses home, survives Christmastime storms

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(Reuters) - Larry Wilkins' 34-year-old son was alone in family's double-wide mobile home in Holly Springs, Mississippi, when the first winds of a lethal storm system began gusting last Wednesday afternoon.

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Mississippi family loses home, survives Christmastime storms

A car port of Delbert and Sharon Craft is damaged from a tornado that swept through Seminary, Mississippi on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. Early morning storms caused damage in parts of the Pine Belt Monday. A radar-confirmed tornado moved through Seminary around 6:15 a.m. (Susan Broadbridge/The Hattiesburg American via AP)

Scattered debris lies on the side on Hwy 49 after a tornado swept through Seminary, Mississippi on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. Early morning storms caused damage in parts of the Pine Belt Monday. A radar-confirmed tornado moved through Seminary around 6:15 a.m. (Susan Broadbridge/The Hattiesburg American via AP)

Scattered debris lies on the side on Hwy 49 after a tornado swept through Seminary, Mississippi on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. Early morning storms caused damage in parts of the Pine Belt Monday. A radar-confirmed tornado moved through Seminary around 6:15 a.m. (Susan Broadbridge/The Hattiesburg American via AP)

Delbert Craft walks past his car port, damaged from a tornado that swept through Seminary, Mississippi on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. Early morning storms caused damage in parts of the Pine Belt Monday. A radar-confirmed tornado moved through Seminary around 6:15 a.m. (Susan Broadbridge/The Hattiesburg American via AP)

Bush Morris Sr. of Hattiesburg helps clean up scattered debris from a tornado that went through Seminary, Miss., on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. Early morning storms caused damage in parts of the Pine Belt Monday. A radar-confirmed tornado moved through Seminary around 6:15 a.m. (Susan Broadbridge/The Hattiesburg American via AP)

A fallen tree rests atop a pickup truck in Holly Springs, Miss., after a storm struck the town on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. A storm system killed several people as it swept across the South, and officials are searching for missing people into the night. (AP Photo/Phillip Lucas)
7yo boy among 3 dead in Mississippi following tornado, severe storm https://t.co/x0kn79g9gD https://t.co/v8RDRqthOF
Dangerous tornado is moving across northwest Mississippi, National Weather Service says. https://t.co/50EOBJf4XU https://t.co/PiqtTIOSCv
That long track tornado that began south of Clarksdale is still on the ground near Como, Mississippi. Goodness. https://t.co/FOSV8B9O9K
Major tornado damage crossed I-55 north of Sardis MS in search rescue mode. mswx @NWSMemphis https://t.co/cWQGm9nEIK
Live look at the #tornado down in #Clarksdale courtesy of the Live Storm Chasing app. Heading towards Marks. https://t.co/rIaZf8fMMm
WOW! Large tornado seen this Wednesday afternoon near Bobo, Mississippi. Photo via J&F McKinney. #Tornado #MSwx https://t.co/aiwQJlTzUb
Large #tornado near Marks, Mississippi. Wow! Via Minuteman Disaster. https://t.co/8ANU8RX9Mh
This home in Panola County Mississippi experienced a partial collapse #Tornado https://t.co/dDC8Rz1omP
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Bruce Streeter was looking for his keys to leave when the clouds outside turned ominously dark.

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Streeter ran into a closet, ears popping as the walls began to cave in while a tornado tore through the area, Wilkins said on Monday in a telephone interview. Before the winds died down, Streeter had been swept into the top of a tree, ultimately landing on the ground about 800 feet from the home.

Streeter is currently at a hospital recovering from injuries that his father said are expected to keep him in a wheelchair for the next three months.

"I don't see how he made it," said Wilkins, a 56-year-old maintenance worker. "This took everything. Ain't nothing left."

The twister that hit Holly Springs was just one of the holiday-week storms that killed more than 40 people, as several days of tornadoes and flooding pelted much of the U.S. South and Midwest.

Among the few things that survived at Wilkins' home were the steps to the porch that he had built and the family's beloved German shepherd. On Monday the family returned to their site to pick up the dog.

Wilkins was able to salvaged little else in earlier trips to the house, which he visited on Christmas Day, and a few photographs and some clothing were the only items he found intact.

Wilkins is grateful that his son was the only one at home when the tornado twisted through town, blasting winds up to 140 miles per hour in the immediate area, and higher in some parts of the region, according to the National Weather Service in Memphis, Tennessee.

His wife and adult daughter were out doing some last-minute holiday shopping at the time and Wilkins was at work about an hour away in Southaven, Mississippi, a suburb of Memphis.

He and his family now are living in motels and waiting to hear from their insurance company.

"It ain't like I've got a home now," he said. "I am just here and there and ... I don't know. It's kind of frustrating. Nothing to do about it but take it a day at a time." (Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida; Editing by Patrick Enright and Bill Trott)

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