Hurricane Elvis

July 23, 2003

Packing whipsaw winds strong enough to twist construction cranes and snap trees like breadsticks, a wall of thunderstorms Tuesday left two people dead, crippled basic services and had Memphis reeling from its worst weather blow in years — worse, probably, than the infamous 1994 ice storm.

Although it lasted just minutes, the dawn onslaught — blamed on straight-line winds believed to have approached 100 mph — cast indelible imprints of havoc from downtown to Eads and from Bartlett to DeSoto County. Stunned residents emerged to find almost no aspect of everyday life unaffected.

— Reporter Tom Charlier on the paralyzing windstorm that became known as Hurricane Elvis.

The building at 271 Front had the roof ripped off in the straight line winds that blew throughout downtown Memphis on Monday morning. Residents tried to salvage their goods and tried to figure out what to do next. Gregory Jaynes had moved into this unit less than one month ago after relocating to Memphis from New York. More than 700,000 residents lost electricity - some for as long as 16 days - and damage to homes, businesses and public facilities approached $500 million. The storm crippled transportation, knocking out three-fourths of the traffic lights in Memphis and shutting down Memphis International Airport. (Karen Pulfer Focht/The Commercial Appeal)

The Gibson Guitar Factory, its lounge and the Rock 'N' Soul Museum suffered the worst damage downtown. About 100 employees were inside when the storm blew away the east corner of the building on George W. Lee Avenue. (The Commercial Appeal)

A massive oak jacked up the front end of a nearby SUV when it toppled in the yard of a house on Jefferson Avenue near East Parkway. (A. J. Wolfe/The Commercial Appeal)

My Town Roofing
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