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South Miss Residents Recovering from Tornado

By Daniel Cherry | Published 12 Feb 2013 04:23am | comments

Hundreds of south Mississippi residents are still digging through the rubble of Sunday’s tornadoes. MPB’s Daniel Cherry is on the ground in some of the hardest hit neighborhoods in the Hattiesburg area. He’s been speaking with residents who are piecing their lives back together after the storm tore their homes apart.

Residents and cleanup crews took to the streets Monday clearing debris and helping neighbors pick up after an EF-4 tornado packing 170 mile per hour winds slammed south Mississippi Sunday evening. Just west of Hattiesburg in Oak Grove, Randall Albert is digging through what’s left of his home.

“This is my room and it’s got a very cool skylight going on right now. We had house beyond this, but it is no more.”

W hen looking at the damage, it’s clear, Albert is fortunate he brought his wife and three children along with him on a short trip to pick up a relative.

“My wife would have been in her room, my boys would have probably been in there, and I can’t imagine had they been home…I just can’t, I can’t think about what would have happened at that point and time.”

The house is so caved in, many doorways are impassable. That makes retrieving anything, even the smallest comfort items, a difficult task.

“My daughter asked me this morning , she said, ‘Dad, when you go to the house can you find something that belongs to me…something that’s mine?’ There’s no way to get in there. You can’t find anything, but we just had some friends here, he literally climbed up a tree and dug around and found a bracelet that she wanted more than anything else.”

That’s Barbara Lydon of Petal. She’s splashing on carpet that used to be in her living room…now just about the only walls left standing of her house surround the tiny bathroom where she rode out the tornado.  

“I’m fine. I had Him watching over me. I definitely had someone watching me, that’s for sure…I just don’t know what to do anymore.”

Lydon is 67 and so much of her home is gone, most of anything that’s left is only sentimental. Like a small ceramic deer, broken in half, lying on the wet carpet.

“Oh, my favorite deer got killed. My sister made that. That was the last of the ceramics that she made.”

Crews feverously worked to put tarps over roofs as relentless heavy rains added insult to injury for those who could do little other than watch what was left of their possessions lost to the showers. Looking at the damage, it’s hard to believe authorities say there have been no fatalities, and, while there were more than 60 injuries, only two of those were serious.

Meanwhile, in Petal, close to two hundred friends and neighbors like Chase Brandon, left  their homes, went into the rain, and formed volunteer crews.

“Just trying to help out. Seeing if anybody in the community needs a little help, and obviously they do.”

Those with chainsaws cleared roads, and cut up trees littering yards. Others, even young children, picked up mounds of rubble.

A few miles away near downtown Hattiesburg residents took a break from cleanup for some barbecued chicken and burgers on Otis and Temeka Johnson’s porch.

“Just decided to grab some meat out of the freezer and start feeding the neighborhood. You might as well feed them; it’s going to go bad anyway so just feed everybody.”

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency reports Sunday’s storms damaged more than 500 homes in the state. In the coming days, those affected are sure to need the help of friends and neighbors more than ever. Again, Chase Brandon.

“I think it’s just something about Mississippi. Everybody is willing to band together in times of need and help out. And nobody is going to leave anybody empty handed of left needing.”

Unfortunately there’s more bad news on the way for those recovering from this disaster. Forecasts show more heavy rainfall today for south Mississippi today. Reporting from Hattiesburg, Daniel Cherry…MPB News.

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