OKTIBBEHA COUNTY, Miss.— In early January 2023, Vanessa Outlaw noticed a sewage odor wafting under her house in east Oktibbeha County, and she realized her water pipes had frozen and burst. She went to her insurance agent, Frank Chiles of State Farm Insurance, to file a claim for her pipes and the flooring of her home.
Her house had sunk a few inches; water ran underneath it and damaged her indoor floors.
“I took my entire (disability) check almost and paid to get my plumbing fixed because I didn’t have any water,” Outlaw said while explaining that mold could have grown under her house and affected her health.
When a storm hit Oktibbeha County in late January 2023, Outlaw called Chiles again: this time to make a storm-damage claim for the roof and ceiling of her house and the roof of her storage shed.
Then in late March, the tornadoes that ripped through the state caused additional destruction to Outlaw’s property.
A tarp protects the roof of Vanessa Outlaw’s mobile home in east Oktibbeha County, Miss., as of May 2023. Photo by Heather Harrison.
Outlaw and her family huddled in the bathtub during the March storm, and she pulled out her cell phone to take videos of her property as wind and rain rattled her tin roof.
“I was scared we weren’t going to make it,” she said.
A tree limb fell on her roof, causing rain to pour through her house and damaging the ceiling, floor, clothes and personal mementos.
“I was thankful God spared me, but this is what I’m left with,” Outlaw said while gesturing to her white and blue mobile home, its roof covered with a tarp and held into place with tires and bricks.
The March storm also caused part of her storage shed’s roof to collapse, littering the gravel floor with debris, insulation, and planks of wood and aluminum siding. In the corner sits her late husband’s motorcycle, no longer usable with a seat that soaked up water and changed colors during the storms.
Outlaw told the Mississippi Free Press that if State Farm
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