Montgomery man helps with tornado cleanup in hometown of Tupelo - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Montgomery man helps with tornado cleanup in hometown of Tupelo


Montgomery resident Gary Wood gave up his time, gasoline and money last weekend to help not just friends but strangers in Tupelo, Mississippi.

You'll recall that the north Mississippi town was hit by the severe weather that moved through the southeast on April 28. The storm damaged or destroyed more than 800 homes and injured 31, but there were no fatalities in the city limits.

We found Wood hauling one broken branch after another in Ellen Wall's yard. It was hot, the job was dirty and the damage all around was clear, yet Gary Wood couldn't possibility stay in Montgomery and sit idly by.

"I just had to do something," said Wood. "Tupelo is my hometown and my sister still lives here and my friends."

Wall and Wood have known each since childhood.

"I am not surprised he is here," Wall said, who is unable to do much because of recent diagnoses of MS.

Although the tornado last week caused quite a bit of damage in a three mile radius, it pales in comparison to what happened in Tupelo more than 70 years ago.

It was 1936 when an EF-5 tornado virtually destroyed the town. There were 48 blocks that were wiped out and 214 people died.

"It was total devastation," said Wood.

Looking at a pile of broken trees in front of Wall's sister's home, Wood can't help but be impressed with nature's power; back in '36 and again just last week.

"It's just amazing the damage it can do," said Wood.

The tornado last week reportedly stayed on the ground and skipped parts of Tupelo for 30 miles before heading into north Alabama.

During the weekend, Wood lost count of the number of branches and trunks he's helped drag to the curb. He is exhausted but has no regrets.

In fact, Gary Wood says he'll be back in Tupelo this weekend even though it will be his 48th birthday. Wood says he'd rather be cleaning up instead of celebrating another milestone in Montgomery.

"We're going to forgo the beach for now," said Wood.

One week after the storm, the native son helped Tupelo heal and recover, and while doing so he is thankful that history didn't repeat itself.

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