Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tupelo MS still has a lot of major residential damage a month after EF3 tornado

About four weeks after an EF3 tornado tore through Tupelo, MS, enormous piles of tree debris lie around residential streets, and many houses have roof tarps and are still being repaired.  In one small area, near a main street with many motels, houses and businesses were obliterated for two or three blocks.  On the other hand, a quarter mile East of that area there is little obvious damage.  The area with widespread tree debris and roof damage seems to be about a 10 block square area.  The homes are mostly one-story, typical moderate income structures. The most affected community appears to be substantially African-American.

Local people say that many homeowners did have insurance.  But housing them in hotels was difficult for a week without power, so some stayed in shelters.  Some stayed with other family if they had them. Apparently, however, there was no general call for “strangelet” homeowners to take them in.

Fox reported that many without incomes because local businesses were destroyed by the storm.   It is difficult to find enough contractors to get the work done quickly.  Homeowners need to go through insurance companies for estimates whenever possible to prevent gouging and overcharging (as I found out after the 2012 derecho), but it can be difficult to get the work estimated and started quickly.  It doesn't seem that volunteer construction work is as common after tornadoes after major hurricanes (Katrina and Sandy).
Can communities be much better prepared to prevent loss to storms like this, with building codes (tornado resistance with steel construction is possible), shelters, and digital storage of personal records and work? 

Storms of this size are much less common in the mid-Atlantic north of the Carolinas, but have happened, and could become more frequent with climate change, although that is still uncertain.  Climate change could make cold fronts from the poles less intense and actually reduce wind shear in many storms, while increasing precipitation and flooding. 
Even some major businesses and hotel chains will take some time to recover. 
The Comfort Inn Suites (on Gloster) appears heavily damaged (with no apparent repairs yet started to reopen), but the Comfort Inn, where I stayed, missed the tornado by about 500 feet.  

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