TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – Twenty years ago this week, a huge winter ice storm left much of North Mississippi without electricity and water for weeks. The ice storm of 1994 caused an estimated $1 billion in damage.
By early afternoon on February 10, 1994, the ice storm had hit northeast mississippi.
As power lines were down, tree limbs snapped and roads became sheets of ice, a federal disaster declaration was issued.
Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre was working as a detective at the time.
“We all were told to get on the roads and help with the traffic issue because everybody was out and there was so many cars that were off the road and everything. They put even the detectives division kind of out there on patrol as well to help out,” Chief Aguirre said.
Twenty six counties felt the impact of the February ice storm, as some residents were left without power for up to a month.
Virtually everyone was affected. U.S. Senator Roger Wicker was a State senator when the storm hit.
“It was a tough time for people trying to get back home. It was a tough time for small businesses to stay in operation because it was one of the most devastating natural disasters that we’ve seen in north mississippi,” Sen. Wicker said.
Former Tennessee Valley Authority Chairman Glenn McCullough Jr., was with the Applachian Regional Commission two decades ago.
“All the power companies were working 24/7 for a matter of about a week or more to try to restore power. It was an historic weather conditions that created that ice and a lot of lines went down and I hope we dont experience that again,” McCullough said.
Longtime Director of Tupelo Water and Light Johnny Timmons doesnt want to experience another ice storm either, but says advances in technology will help if there is another weather emergency.
“We have our mutual aid agreement with all of our sister power companies across the valley, so within just a cell phone call up to these, we can have crews in here respond to anything that would happen here in Tupelo,” Timmons said.
Experts say the closest event to the 1994 storm was 1951′s “Great Southern Glaze,” the most powerful ice storm ever to hit the south.
It’s estimated the 1994 storm affected 750,000 people throughout the region.