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Tornado Rips Through Hattiesburg

By Daniel Cherry | Published 11 Feb 2013 01:42am | comments
Parts of south Mississippi are under a State of Emergency after tornadoes ripped through four counties Sunday evening. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports, the City of Hattiesburg took a direct hit.
 
Crews worked through the night clearing debris after tornadoes left a path of destruction across south Mississippi. Hardest hit were Forrest and Lamar counties. Chip Brown is Forrest County Fire Coordinator. He says Hattiesburg took on significant damage.
 
"Looks like the storm tracked through the City of Hattiesburg down the Hardy Street area, which is a major thoroughfare here in Hattiesburg. A heavily populated area. Then it went over into the Petal area, right through downtown Petal. We've got major, major structure damage throughout the cities of Petal, Hattiesburg, and Forrest County."
 
The storm hit the University of Southern Mississippi's campus, damaging several buildings and toppling trees. But Dr. Joe Paul, Vice President of Student Affairs, believes the outcome could have been much worse. 
 
"The campus is largely spared, no injuries, all the residence halls are secured, we have not lost power. We really dodged what could have been very horrific for Southern Miss."
 
Paul says, thankfully, most students were off campus as USM is currently on break for Mardi Gras. Meanwhile, it was difficult for responders to reach residents due to debris blocking roads. Jeff Rent is a spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
 
"The road crews are out there working very hard right now to get those roads clear. As soon as they do, those first responders get in there and make sure everybody is safe and ok, then they move on to the next area."
 
Governor Phil Bryant has declared a State of Emergency for Lawrence, Marion, Lamar, and Forrest Counties. The extent of the damage is still unclear as crews assess the situation. Joanne Culin with the National Weather Service in Jackson says no one knows just yet the strength of the storm.
 
"We'll have a couple of teams go down and assess Marion, Lamar, and Forrest Counties, and we'll find out that information as soon as it becomes available."
 
Officials say most of the reported injuries weren't serious or life-threatening.

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