Tupelo, May 29, 2014 -- A month after an EF3 tornado cut a swath across several neighborhoods in west Tupelo, the clean-up is still very much an ongoing process.
While there are fewer utility trucks in the Joyner neighborhood in west Tupelo these days, the area still looks like a war zone. A bulldozer pushes debris into large piles along the road -- bricks, siding, parts of roofs, the remnants of a damaged home, mingled with branches and tree stumps – all to be picked up and hauled away.
“Right at 30 days we just hit a 100,000 cubic yards of debris removal. It’s not all the way there but that’s a huge step in the right direction."
It’s been a month since an EF3 tornado on April 28th damaged hundreds of homes and businesses in Tupelo. Mayor Jason Shelton is proud of the progress made so far.
"At the rate they are going, it would not surprise me if the debris removal was not done in another 30 days," Shelton says. "You know we are somewhere between 25 and 50 percent complete now.”
At badly damaged St. Luke’s United Methodist Church the sanctuary is now largely gutted. Structural engineers have yet to determine if that part of the sprawling church can be repaired or needs to be entirely rebuilt. Meanwhile, Sunday services have moved to the church gym. So far, the congregation is showing great unity, says church member Jake Sanders and attendance has been up.
“The first Sunday the attendance was almost 500. The second Sunday it was 440, I remember that count specifically, and then this past Sunday it was in the 400 range also.”
Further down the street at 1503 Clayton Avenue, homeowner Phillip Thomason is standing in the driveway of his damaged home. Parts of the roof of his red brick house are covered in blue tarp after the twister broke off the chimney, sending it right through the upper floor.
“I’m more resigned to the fact that we have a long process here. I’ve been dealing with the insurance company on a fairly regular basis. You know, I am 72 years old and I know that things just take a lot of time. It’ll all work out. We just have a project. A big project,” he laughs, “that we have to take care of now.”
For the Joyner neighborhood the visible scars will take a long time to heal. Meanwhile, Mayor Shelton is hoping more volunteers will came to Tupelo to help homeowners with the ongoing cleanup.
Sandra Knispel, MPB News.