By JB Clark
TUPELO – Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre said after last night’s curfew officers are still working to maintain security and reduce traffic in heavily damaged areas.
“I’m encouraging everyone to stay away from these areas so our workforce can get in there,” he said. “We’re trying to restrict traffic flow in the areas because we still have lots of people doing a lot of rubbernecking, and it’s causing a traffic flow problem for our Public Works and Water and Light crews trying to get in and work.”
Aguirre said the areas they are asking motorists to avoid are West Jackson, which officers are working to block from Thomas Street to Lumpkin Avenue; Lumpkin Avenue north of West Jackson Street; the Joyner area; Lakeshire Drive; Lynn Circle; North Gloster Street; and Country Club Road.
He said they also had some trouble with looting once the sun began to set Monday.
“It was at the restaurants and stores that have cigarettes, beer and liquor mostly,” Aguirre said. “Two have been arrested in the area for curfew violations, whether it was looting or disorderly conduct.”
Outside law enforcement, Mississippi Highway Patrol Troopers and the National Guard, are helping Tupelo Police maintain order and assist victims in the damaged areas.
Aguirre said he and his command staff are talking to business owners and city officials to decide if a curfew is needed for a second night Tuesday.
Latest figures are that approximately 2,000 residences and 100 commercial structures in the city were damaged or destroyed. In Lee County outside Tupelo, the figure was 131 residences and two commercial buildings.
The Tombigbee Electric Power Association reported 8,232 customers in Lee County were without power this morning. An eight-mile transmission line will have to be repaired at a cost of $800,000, county officials were told.
Tupelo Power & Light reported 4,125 customers are still without power.
Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley is alerting utility customers affected by the storms that his office will be available 24 hours a day during the aftermath to assist customers as services are restored.
Presley particularly stresses that the most vulnerable, senior citizens and those whose health is endangered by prolonged periods without vital utility services should not be hesitant to seek the assistance of the PSC.
“Our utilities are working tirelessly to restore service, and I and my staff will be available around the clock to support them and to aid affected customers in any way we can,” Presley said. “With the extremely high volume of calls our utilities are receiving, the PSC will be available to help take and relay information so that the most vulnerable customers are prioritized and further tragedies are averted. If your health is threatened by a lack of vital services, call our office immediately so that we can be there to assist.”
Affected customers are asked to contact Presley’s office at 1 (800) 637-7722 to seek assistance. The extended, 24-hour schedule will remain in force until major utility restoration efforts have been completed in the Northern District.