Tupelo, April 30, 2014 -- More teams will be on the ground today in Tupelo to assess the wide-spread damage caused by an EF3 tornado. MPB’s Sandra Knispel has more from Elvis’s birth town.
All across west Tupelo in the Joyner neighborhood chain saws are hard at work, as are utility crews, trying to remove the debris, downed trees, and felled utility poles. It’ll be a long, arduous march towards any degree of normalcy for this neighborhood that was hit hard by the devastating tornado Monday afternoon. Valerie Whitwell who lives at 1625 Northlake Drive had a narrow escape:
“We were in the closet and heard whistling and a tree hit in my master bedroom.” Reporter: “And what does your house look like now?” Whitwell responds,” It’s destroyed on one end but the rest of it is ok. There are no trees and I lived in a very wooded area that is just totally destroyed. Reporter: “And you were how close to that master bedroom?” “Twenty feet, twelve feet – in the closet,” Whitwell says. Reporter: “You heard the crashing?” “Well, we could smell it. The smell of pine was so strong that we knew something had happened, but we could not, because of the whistling, we couldn’t actually hear the tree hit the house. But the smell – then we knew something was wrong.”
At a press conference in Tupelo yesterday morning, wearing jeans, work boots and a black cotton shirt, Governor Phil Bryant told reporters: “It is amazing to see that amount of damage, residential damage, the number of large trees that have been destroyed. The damage to the Outback Steakhouse, the hotels along Gloster Street there and fortunately realize that the injuries and loss of life were so few.”
In Lee County and Tupelo combined more than 330 homes were damaged, along with several churches, and 28 businesses. Yet, at the press conference the Governor urged well-meaning volunteers to sit tight: “We would caution about volunteers and ask you not to self-deploy. Do not randomly come to this area at this time until we have had an opportunity to secure these neighborhoods."
Instead, he said, go online to VolunteerMississippi.org to find out where and when helpers are needed for a coordinated volunteer relief effort.