Officials urge safety as emergency crews restore utilities

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com A utility pole is down on Lakeshire Drive Monday evening after a tornado went through Tupelo. Approximately 15,000 homes lost power due to the storm.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
A utility pole is down on Lakeshire Drive Monday evening after a tornado went through Tupelo. Approximately 15,000 homes in Lee and Itawamba counties lost power due to the storm.

By JB Clark

Daily Journal

TUPELO – In the wake of Monday’s tornado, which the National Weather Service has reported was at least an EF2, officials say the danger is now avoiding accidents while emergency crews work to clean up.

Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said, in a Monday evening press conference, that Tupelo residents need to be especially careful over the next few days as emergency crews repair the tornado damage.

“There is a real danger of fire and electrocution as crews work to get power turned back on,” he said.

Emergency workers went door-to-door to clear houses in the tornado’s path, particularly in the Joyner neighborhood. Direct tornado damage could be seen from the West Jackson Street area northeast to North Gloster Street and Green Street.

Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre said his officers, after clearing homes and rescuing trapped residents, are now concentrating on patrolling the area to keep it free of looters.

“We didn’t think it was going to be a problem, and then we saw folks trying to take some stuff, mostly from the businesses on North Gloster Street,” Aguirre said. “Folks need to stay secure in your homes and when police come by to check, cooperate with them and provide them with the information they need.”

He also said to wait until the numerous trees and power lines are out of the roadways before trying to navigate the affected neighborhoods – Joyner, Bel Air and North Gloster Street, North Green and nearby areas.

Shelton stressed the importance of Tupelo adhering to an 8 p.m. curfew Monday night, and those whose homes were heavily damaged to seek shelter elsewhere while emergency crews work to restore power.

Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said three Tennessee Valley Authority substations were damaged, resulting in a loss of power for 12,000 Tombigbee Electric Power Association Lee County residents and 3,000 Itawamba County residents. He said it will be at least 24 hours before power is fully restored.

At 9 p.m. Monday, about 4,100 of Tupelo Water & Light Customers were without power.

He also said Atmos Energy confirmed multiple gas lines being broken and blowing gas. Presley asked anyone who finds a damaged power or gas line to report it and stay away from it.

Shelton said that as of Monday at 7:30 p.m., there were no reports of fatalities or life-threatening injuries in Tupelo. Lee County Coroner Carolyn Green reported one person was killed in a weather-related car crash on Palmetto Road south of Tupelo.

“I’m hearing reports of injuries, but they are along the lines of broken arms, broken legs and broken limbs,” Shelton said.

jb.clark@journalinc.com