By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Pamela Long carried arm loads of clothing, jackets, shoes and other possessions from her Tupelo Housing Authority apartment on Friday morning.
Since the unit on Forbes Lane was damaged by Monday’s tornado, she and seven other families members have crammed into a motel room. The costs are adding up, but they also don’t have other options.
“We’re ready to go, but we have no home to go to,” she said. “We don’t know how long it will be.”
The unit received water damage and lost insulation, which now sits on the floor. As she plans her next move, Long, 44, tried Friday to salvage items from the apartment.
Just beyond the back side of the THA properties, which serve many low-income residents, sit the high-end Vista Ridge Apartments. That’s where Daryl Dismukes, 26, and girlfriend Alisha Pulliam, 26, also spent Friday moving from their damaged complex.
Water gushed down their walls of their first-floor unit on Monday after a hole was exposed in the building’s roof. The smell of damp carpets still lingered as the two tried to unhook a washing machine and transport it to a U-Haul truck.
Both apartment complexes were directly in the path of Monday’s twister, and each suffered extensive damages. Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said on Thursday 139 THA units suffered major damage, as did nine of the 10 buildings at Vista Ridge.
Entire roofs are missing on several of the back buildings of the housing authority, located off North Green Street, near its intersection with North Gloster. Aluminum siding is missing in some places and peeling in others. Shingles are scattered on the grounds, windows are missing and the cemetery and woods behind the complex have heaps of twisted, fallen trees.
Brenda Griffin, 56, was in a hallway of her unit on Kirksey Circle with three grandchildren when the roof flew off the structure.
“I could see it go,” she said. “I looked up and made sure nothing fell on my kids.”
On Friday, she sat in her car in its parking lot, next to neighbors Keyanna Smith, 27, and Tara Roberson, 29, as they tried to determine what they would do next.They have all been in motels since Monday.
“We’re going to be all right, and God is good, all the time,” Smith said.
Roberson was in her unit with her four children when the tornado passed. She and her two girls, ages – 9 and 6 – were in one closet, while her two boys – ages 11 and 8 – were in an adjoining closet.
“I had to shield the girls and make sure the boys were still there,” she said. “We were talking back and forth through the closet.
“They are still shaken up by every noise. They look to see what is coming.”
As the THA residents and the rest of the Park Hill neighborhood continues to heal, it will host a community meeting on Monday night, at which city officials will discuss the recovery. It will start at 6:30 p.m. at Lane Chapel CME Church on North Madison Street.
Meanwhile, holes also are exposed on many of the roofs at Vista Ridge, located on a side road off North Gloster Street, behind Blue Canoe. Black plastic sheets cover multiple windows that have been blown out, walls are missing, and the metal frames that used to provide covered parking are twisted and disfigured.
Pulliam was home Monday afternoon in the unit where she and Dismukes have lived for about a year and a half.
“I got in a closet, and my ears started sucking in,” she said. “You could feel the pressure. Glass and windows were popping, and the fire alarm was going off.”
As the two packed their belongings Friday, they said there were under the impression they had to immediately leave the complex, where the city designated many of its units as being unsafe for occupancy.
The city, however, has said it has not ordered people out of the complex and a lawsuit was filed Friday to prevent the complex’s owners from charging May rent or removing belongings within a month.
That likely won’t matter for Dismukes and Pulliam, who said they had already found another apartment in New Albany.
“I’m ready to get out of here,” Dismukes said.