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Federal Officials Assessing Storm Damage in Southeast Mississippi

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 11 Feb 2013 05:56pm | comments

State and Federal emergency officials are trying to gauge the extent of the damage caused by severe storms that struck southeast Mississippi. M-P-B's Jeffrey Hess reports some believe the storm is bad enough to trigger federal disaster assistance.

State and federal disaster response teams are on the ground tallying up the damage to the hundreds of homes and buildings across at least three Southeast Mississippi counties.

State Senator Joey Fillingane represents parts of Forrest, Lamar and Marion Counties...all counties affected by the severe storm system that cut a 75 mile path across the southeast portion of the state.

Fillingane thinks the damage does require federal aid, but also says the state will step in if necessary.

"The Lt. Governor has already been in contact with me asking if there is anything he can do and offering his assistance. I think we will have all the support we need if in fact there is a need for additional support on the state level," Fillingane said.

Across the region there were at least 60 reported injuries as a result of the storm.

Mississippi Emergency Management Director Robert Latham says there would have to be nearly 4-million dollars in damage for the federal government to step in and offer aid to the area.

"When we get the results of those damage assessments I will give them to the Governor and make a recommendation to him to move forward with a presidential disaster declaration request should we feel we have got the numbers to do that. But first and foremost I want to make sure we take care of the people," Latham said.

The city of Hattiesburg was the heart of the storm with an EF-3 tornado with 140 mile and hour winds caused heavy damage to parts of the University of Southern Mississippi.

University Vice President Joe Paul is fortunate that there were no fatalities.

"All residence halls are safe and secure. We have got a Mardi Gras holiday. So we were blessed that most students were away. But we probably had between 500 and 800 students in our residence halls. We never lost power. The cafeteria is up and running. And everyone is fine," Paul said.

Classes at the University are canceled until at least Thursday.

There are shelters in Forrest and Lamar County and the city of Petel.

The Red Cross is on location offering food, lodging, clothing, and emotional support.

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