April 28th seemed surreal. We hear and see the devastation tornado’s are capable of laying on communities, but we rarely experience it firsthand. That change on this blustery day towards the end of April. The weather forecaster’s had warned that conditions were favorable for a line of storms to wreak havoc. Radar showed a few threatening storms but nothing really looked serious the early part of the day. Mid-afternoon, the red blips on the radar began growing and moving in Tupelo’s direction. The clouds and wind outside my place of work darkened and the winds seemed to being sucked in a northern directions rather than being blown.
From my location it seemed the lightening strikes and darkest portion of the sky was North, possible in the Saltillo area. I did not view any funnels spiraling from the sky and felt it was just another heavy thunderstorms laboring it’s way through North Mississippi! It dawned on me that Bess, Alix, and Larkin were at home. I phoned and they were all “OK”. They said it got “real bad” but nothing really happened. They did mention a doorknob being in our side yard. Seeing the worse had passed, we at the office began getting back to our daily tasks. It wasn’t long before images and txt messages starting rolling in of areas affected by the tornado.
At first I heard that Joyner School had been hit, the Mall, the areas around North Gloster. Wow, these places all surrounded our neighborhood. I realized it might be in my best interests to head towards the house and make sure all was well. The image to the lest show our house with a yellow dot! Luckily, we were on the cutting edge of the destruction. Nearby neighbors were not as fortunate.
As I left work for home, the clouds were still quite ominous. I still had no idea of the severity of the day but had begun what would be a two hours maze journey in order to get home. Knowing the Joyner community was mentioned as an affected area, I decided to take that route home in order to check conditions (and gawk, I suppose). Bad idea. I could not go far. Traffic was bottle-necked through all the street. I made my way back to Jackson and decided to take the “safe” and direct way home via North Gloster. Bad idea. Traffic was backed up and proceeding at a snail’s pace. North bound traffic was being diverted onto McCullough Blvd eastward. I decided to head towards downtown and take Eason Blvd around the west part of the city and catch McCoullough to home. All the while hearing more radio and telephone reports of the tornado’s aftermath.
Being close to out shop at Ballard Park, I decided to check on it as our metal awning was susceptible to high winds. Pines and large trees were uprooted throughout the park. I later learned that this was pretty much the beginning of the tornado’s path that cut through Tupelo. Our awning had been lifted up and was off it’s base. A 15 minute quick fix with my friend, Kieth, had it back in place and the shop was otherwise untouched! Heading home, I headed arounf Jackson Street extended to cut over to McCullough as planned. I got as far as the Trace and tried to take Clayton over to Lakeshire. A few hundred yards down Clayton a huge Oak had the road blocked. My last resort to make it home was to turn around and take Mt. Vernon road to Lakeshire. This turned out to be the only route into our neighborhood. It took nearly two hours to successfully arrive home. My troubles of the day were nothing compared to many others. Our family was blessed to have escaped the brunt of this storm.