Tornado devastates Hattiesburg community
On Feb. 10, 2013, an EF-4 tornado ripped through the Pine Belt and caused a historic amount of damage to buildings and residences.
Early Saturday morning, it happened again.
According to the National Weather Service, the storm produced EF-3 winds and dropped 3.42 inches of rain on the Hattiesburg area. But just as all tragedies do not simply come down to numbers, this storm took its toll on the community.
One account of the devastation came from Hattiesburg resident Jadaka Thurmond, who said the storm launched him into the air.
“That’s what woke me up — rain hitting me in my face,” Thurmond said. “My first reaction, I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t panic or nothing. I just reached out and grabbed the hitch and held onto it until it dropped, and when it dropped, I hopped up and walked off.”
Thurmond said as he walked away from the destruction, he looked back to see what was left of his home.
“When I got up off the ground, everything was gone,” Thurmond said. “[The trailer] didn’t even come down. It came apart in the air. Then the trailer in front of our trailer came on top of our trailer.”
The twister tore through trailer parks and hit a church, which was a block away from Thurmond.
“The last tornado, it did not hit us,” said Carolyn Newsome, member of the affected Cottrell Memorial Church located on 1001 Edwards St. “But now it hit home. That means we have to start over again. But that’s okay. It will be better.”
The tornado ripped through parts of the Hattiesburg area, specifically William Carey University and Edwards Street. The damage destroyed prominent buildings on WCU’s campus, including dormitories, the school gym and the School of Business building.
Tragedy struck a trailer park that held more than 10 lots for homes. However, as people woke up to their homes on Saturday, the lots were empty.
One resident, Jenova, lost her boyfriend in the tornado. The man stayed behind in his trailer as his family fled for safety. Jenova’s mother died in the same trailer the Saturday prior.
“Everyone was trying to get out of the trailer, but he didn’t want to leave,” said Jennie, Jenova’s sister-in-law. “They thought he had left, but he didn’t. They were like, ‘Wayne, Wayne,’ and he answered, ‘What,’ two or three times. And after that, he didn’t say anything. That’s when they realized he had died, because he wouldn’t answer anymore.”
Wayne’s death was one of the four reported from the city during the early morning hours of Jan. 21. The trailer in which he stayed was next to another trailer belonging to Gladys Harvey, whose home was completely destroyed.
“To be honest, I thought the world had come to an end,” Harvey said just hours after waking up to an empty lot. “I was that scared. I have never been that scared in my life.”
Inside of her trailer during the storm was a 7-month-old baby who disappeared after the storm came through the park. The father later found his child motionless.
After a few hours of care, the child regained consciousness.
“Fiction is fiction — this is real,” said Annis Baker, who sat with her family on her porch in the aftermath of the storm. “This is as real as it gets. Look around. It don’t get no realer than this. This is happening to people. When it happened it 2013, it was on the other side of town. When it actually happens to you, it’s a different feeling altogether. It’s like your guts are tied up in a knot, and you want somebody to let it loose for you.”
Some of these residents had not only experienced the tornado of three years ago, but had also been through Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“By going through Katrina, it’s just basically almost the same, except there was more water in Katrina,” said Edna Smith, who sat on her porch waiting on family to help with cleanup efforts. “But it’s a little bit different by the way it came through with the sounds. You can hear it for a second, and then it’s gone. Then, before you know it, everything is gone.”
Smith was among those relocated from New Orleans following the hurricane.
“What I do now is just start over again,” Smith said. “During Katrina, for 30 years living in New Orleans — lost everything, came to Mississippi and had to start all over. I have to start all over here, too.”