Meridian Star

February 12, 2013


Local responders lend help in wake of storms

By Brian Livingston /
The Associated Press

MERIDIAN —     Shortly after a tornado smacked into Hattiesburg Sunday evening causing extensive damage, it made its way across rural parts of east-central Mississippi.

    David Sharp, executive director for the Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency (LEMA) and other personnel from Lauderdale County went to assist emergency personnel in Wayne County. Sharp said they were tasked with doing property assessments to determine the extent of the damage in Wayne County.

    "There were a few houses impacted by the storm with two to three of them being totally destroyed," said Sharp. "There were no reports of deaths or severe injuries but quite a few homes were damaged."

    Sharp said most of the damage they surveyed in Wayne County was in the Clara community.  

    According to reports, a tornado swept through Hattiesburg ripping across Hardy Street at the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi. The tornado ripped off roofs from businesses and homes alike, snapped trees and twisted flying metal around telephone poles.     

    Emergency officials said late Sunday that at least 10 people

were injured in surrounding Forrest County and three were hurt to the west in Marion County, but they weren't aware of any deaths. In addition to the Forrest, Lamar, and Wayne County injuries, several people in the Pickwick community of Marion County near Columbia were hurt.

    Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree found the silver lining when he talked with reporters with CNN.

    "If there is a good thing about this, it happened on a Sunday when most of these structures were vacant," he said.

    As of Monday morning, 4,000 power customers were without electricity, down from the approximately 14,000 who had lost power, a Mississippi Power spokesman said.

    Members of the Salvation Army's Disaster Response Teams also deployed to Hattiesburg, providing food and water to those impacted by the storm.

    “Salvation Army continues to serve throughout the Pine Belt following Sunday’s storms," Hattiesburg Salvation Army Capt. Andy Gilliam said. "We will remain present in area neighborhoods to support our community as it recovers."

    Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency for the affected counties.

    Sharp said his agency is on stand by status if needed.

    "We have the manpower and the equipment ready if they need us," said Sharp, speaking of the officials with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency in Jackson. "All they have to do is call us and we will hit the road."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.