A devastating tornado with at least 111-mph winds rocked Tupelo and Lee County on Monday, whirling trees onto houses, crumbling up businesses and leaving a trail of unknown injuries and at least one death.
Powerful storm systems passing through Arkansas, Mississippi and other states in recent days didn’t spare Northeast Mississippi, leaving thousands of residents in the dark from power outages and uncertain safety in hardest-hit neighborhoods.
The twister ploughed through west Tupelo and headed north, while much of the area received significant residential damage.
“We have experienced a tornado that touched down that hasn’t been experienced in decades,” Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said during an evening news conference at City Hall. “There is widespread destruction in business and residential neighborhoods.”
Shelton declared a state of emergency for the city to help clear the way for state and federal resources to assist with public safety and rebuilding damaged areas. He spoke with Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves during the day about state assistance available.
Just after the tornado passed through Tupelo, photos of damaged or demolished hotels, restaurants and gas stations along North Gloster Street surfaced on Twitter, Facebook and other social media showing fragments of destroyed metal and other building materials.
“It’s real bad,” said Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre after the tornado left the area. “We’re pulling people out.”
Late Monday evening, North Mississippi Medical Center’s emergency room had treated 30 storm-related injuries, 26 of them minor. None were life-threatening.