Now, the cleanup: Tupelo, Lee County recover from tornado

I'm a journalist focused on government, policy, politics and people.
I find what matters and bird dog it like nobody's business.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com Kevin Barnes goes through what's left of his house on Clayton Street after Monday's storm completely destroyed his house. His daughter and rooomate were in the living room at the time of the storm and escaped without injury.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Kevin Barnes goes through what’s left of his house on Clayton Street after Monday’s storm completely destroyed his house. His daughter and rooomate were in the living room at the time of the storm and escaped without injury.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com Lisa Bray walks through her aunt Jennie Cox's house searching for valuables Tuesday morning on Jean Circle after a tornado went through the area Monday.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Lisa Bray walks through her aunt Jennie Cox’s house searching for valuables Tuesday morning on Jean Circle after a tornado went through the area Monday.

By Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Local and state emergency management workers, volunteers and residents worked Tuesday to assess damage and begin cleanup from a tornado a day earlier with winds up to 150 mph.

Debris in Tupelo and Lee County roadways, houses and other areas produced by Monday’s EF-3 tornado caused millions of dollars in property damage, dozens of injuries and is linked to the death of Cassandra Blansett, 39, of Pontotoc, while she was driving on Palmetto Road.

Gov. Phil Bryant and other state and local officials in the area Tuesday saw deep destruction in the Tupelo neighborhoods including Joyner, Park Hill, Sharon Hills and in Lee County’s Auburn community. Church volunteers and others looking after their neighbors and fellow residents began helping clear trees, trash and other items from much of the area.

The governor viewed destruction from an aircraft, as emergency management teams assessed damaged houses and businesses on the ground.

Bryant said the storm crossed parts of Lee, Pontotoc and Itawamba counties.

The tornado that hit Tupelo left a 24-mile-long swath from 7 miles south-southwest of Tupelo to the town of Ozark in Itawamba County, said Marlene Mickelson, a meteorologist in the service’s Memphis, Tenn., office.

Several hundred homes and businesses were damaged in Tupelo and Lee County, officials said. About 30 homes in Itawamba County were hard hit.

Tupelo, Lee County and Itawamba County were among the places in Mississippi where a dozen tornadoes zipped through Monday, snapping mature trees, shaking and destroying houses from their foundations and causing dozens of injuries. Altogether, 40 counties in the state received damage from the tornadoes – Tupelo, Richland and Louisville bearing the worst impact.

“It is amazing to see that amount of residential damage, the number of large trees that have been destroyed, the number of businesses that have been destroyed and the small amount of lost lives,” Bryant said.

Dozens of people in the city were treated for nonlife-threatening injuries, including broken bones.

Widespread reports of residents not hearing tornado sirens in many parts of the city have led Emergency Management Agency employees to make plans to evaluate whether equipment worked. However, before that happens, the priority is on restoring power to an estimated 12,000 businesses and homes still in the dark.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com Misty Beckner, center, and Jeb Baker sort through and see what they can salvage from Beckner's storage Tuesday morning on County Road 811.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Misty Beckner, center, and Jeb Baker sort through and see what they can salvage from Beckner’s storage Tuesday morning on County Road 811.

Tombigbee Electric Power Association still had 8,000 customers without service in Lee and Itawamba counties, mostly in Lee, including businesses in the Barnes Crossing area. Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said most power should be restored this morning.

Three Lee County roads – 811, 1057 and 1766 – in the Auburn community will remain closed until electric utility workers restore broken connections. Utility workers from Tennessee and Kentucky and other parts of Mississippi have joined the local force to restore service.

About 4,125 Tupelo Water & Light customers were reported without power Monday afternoon. While no updated figures were available Tuesday, power was steadily being restored by the city.

Affected areas of Tupelo and Lee County remained under a strict curfew Tuesday night, and officials will decide today whether to keep it in effect to protect property from looting and prevent traffic from interfering with utility workers trying to restore power.

Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said the city’s cooperative spirit won’t allow the natural disaster to get the best of the community.

“We may be battered, but not beaten,” he said.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com

  • james

    well Robbie, do you know when they will get power restored to the barnes crossing area? I heard that lowes cashiers will have to run all over the store getting prices and item numbers if they lose the generators powering the store. they were told to use their cell phones to add everything up, since management is not providing them with calculators and must write down the transactions on pre computer sales invoices. why isn’t the power being rerouted to that area until more repairs are made?
    why are you not doing a report on that ROBBIE?