Early Saturday morning, a tornado touched down in Lamar county and tore through Forrest county, causing significant damage to the Hattiesburg and Petal areas.
WDAM reported four fatalities and significant damage throughout Hattiesburg due to the storm. The extent of the damage occurred south of Hardy Street in West Hattiesburg.
“At 3:45 a.m. CST, a confirmed tornado was located over West Hattiesburg, moving northeast at 50 mph,” read a National Weather Service warning of severe weather issued at 3:46 a.m.
No damage or injuries were reported at the USM campus – although flash flooding caused damage to parked vehicles. Multiple buildings on William Carey University’s campus were decimated, with Johnson Apartment and Ross Hall in particular having received severe wind damage. The recently renovated Thomas Building sustained damage, and the roof of Tatum Court was blown off.
Reports indicate that every building at William Carey sustained at least some destruction. Cars parked on campus were flipped, but only minor injuries have been reported.
All students reported safely to family and friends as the dorms were evacuated. Carey faculty and staff worked to move students to the College of Osteopathic Medicine where there is a generator.
“There are some minor injuries,” said Mia Overton, William Carey public relations coordinator. “Officials are working to ensure students are safe and accounted for. There is damage to most buildings on campus including cars and a home across campus is damaged.”
Carey’s Facebook page read due to extensive storm damage, the Hattiesburg campus is closed until further notice.
“Students will not be allowed to stay on campus. Arrangements are being made for students who live far away or do not have transportation,” Carey’s Facebook page read. “Please do not travel to campus. An announcement concerning classes will be posted. We are thankful to God that no lives were lost and only less than a dozen students received non life-threatening injuries.”
Many of the Southern Miss students in Sigma Nu fraternity helped to direct traffic in the immediate area.
Arledge Street in downtown Hattiesburg near the Hattiesburg Police Department received destruction that stretched for several blocks. Many homes were devastated in the storm. Downed trees and power lines blocked the roads, making travel impossible in that area. Emergency officials were on site, working to assess the damage while urging everyone to stay off the roads. Several gas lines ruptured and persons reported leaking in downtown Hattiesburg and Petal.
A fire station in Hattiesburg suffered a direct hit with power lines blocking one of their firetrucks. Firefighters from that station left on foot to assist those in need.
Extensive damage has also been reported on Sullivan Kilraine Road and Richburg Road in Lamar County. Furthermore, Petal was heavily affected with roads being completely impassable due to debris.
Due to significant damage and injuries, Mayor Johnny DuPree signed an emergency declaration for Hattiesburg.
Stay with The Printz as the story develops.