Summer soaking

TUPELO – Back-to-back thunderstorms soaked the city in 2 inches of rain this week while downing trees and causing scattered power outages.
Most of the damage caused by the sudden storms, which arrived in the early evening Sunday and again Monday, was minor.
Storm water drains whisked away rapidly falling rain without flooding, said Public Works Director Sid Russell. And the roughly 1,000 homes and businesses that lost power during the lightning-filled rains were online again quickly, said Tupelo Water & Light Manager Johnny Timmons.
Vernon Shaffer and his family weren’t as fortunate. A century-old pin oak in the family’s front yard collapsed into their house Monday night, ripping out the power and gouging large holes into the roof over the living room and master bedroom.
The tree also took out the windshield and driver’s side window in Shaffer’s red pickup truck as it crashed to the ground.
“We had just gotten our computers shut down and I heard a loud crack,” Shaffer recalled. “And then a real bright flash filled the room. After that, everything was dark.”
The family didn’t realize the tree had crushed a portion of the house until everybody grabbed flashlights and began walking around. No one had been in either of the affected rooms at the time, Shaffer said, otherwise they could have been seriously injured.
Jagged rafters pierced the furniture from the exposed roof after the incident; they since have been removed.
On Wednesday, work crews were still busy cutting and removing the tree while others worked to restore power so they could begin sucking out the standing water. The Shaffers, who had just purchased sufficient homeowner’s insurance last year, are staying at a motel until repairs are complete.
Shaffer said he had asked the city to remove the tree last year because it appeared sick, but it wasn’t completely on municipal right of way and the city didn’t do it. A private company would have charged $3,500 for the job, but Shaffer didn’t have the money at the time.
“God did what I couldn’t afford to do,” he said.
The 2 inches of rain that fell this week bring July’s total in Tupelo to 7.01 inches. That’s more than double what it usually is this late in the month – 3.26 inches, according Tom Salem of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Memphis office.
The storms produced not only heavy rainfall and high winds, but also thousands of lightning strikes. Some 3,000 strikes hit in the area between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Monday, Salem reported.
During the same hour, about 8,000 strikes occurred throughout the Mid-South, he said.
More severe weather could come again this week.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio