The severe line of storms moved into the area around 2:43 p.m., when trained weather spotters first reported the wedge shaped tornado moving northeast at 50 MPH near the Barnes Crossing area.
The storm flattened many businesses near North Gloster and Green Streets. Businesses damaged by the storms included Outback Steakhouse, Hammer’s Hot Wings and several gas stations. The roof was blown off of long-time, popular restaurant Vanelli’s. Across the street from the popular Italian eatery, Comfort Suites and Steak Escape were both destroyed.
The residential neighborhood near Old Veterans Boulevard and Lakeshire subdivision was also flattened by the storm, however no fatalities had been reported late Monday night.
The tornado’s strong winds toppled many trees and power lines.
“Between 6,000 and 8,000 customers were without power after the storm moved through Lee County,” said Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley.
The Lee County sheriff said the intersection of U.S. Highway 78 and U.S. Highway 45 was shut down shortly after the tornado hit. Reportedly almost a dozen transfer trucks were blown off the roadway near the intersection.
Lee County natives who commute to Alcorn County for work experienced trouble getting home after the storm. U.S. Highway 45 was shut down near the county line for several hours due to damage.
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton called the damage to his city extensive and issued a city wide 9 p.m. curfew.
Red Cross setup a shelter at the BancorpSouth Arena, where approximately 70 spent the night.
Gov. Phil Bryant had declared a state of emergency Monday in advance of expected storms that the National Weather Service had warned could trigger tornadoes, heavy downpours, damaging hail and flash floods.
The threat of dangerous weather jangled nerves a day after the three-year anniversary of an historic outbreak of more than 60 tornadoes that killed more than 250 across Alabama on April 27, 2011.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)