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In aftermath of deadly tornado, one family ‘glad to be alive’

Hattiesburg family watched tornado come through their neighborhood

Rose Harrell of Hattiesburg describes when tornado went through her neighborhood. Video by John Fitzhugh/Sun Herald
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Rose Harrell of Hattiesburg describes when tornado went through her neighborhood. Video by John Fitzhugh/Sun Herald

Rose and Jimmie Harrell had lived in their yellow-brick home on William Carey Parkway for the better part of two decades. All of that changed Saturday morning when a tornado touched down in their neighborhood.

The Harrells’ home and property were severely damaged. At least their house was still standing — some of their neighbors were not as lucky. But as Rose Harrell said late Saturday morning, “We’re just glad to be alive.”

She said she was asleep when the weather alert went off on her phone about 4 a.m. Saturday.

“They said there was a tornado warning and I started monitoring the TV, “ she said. “Around 4, they said it was on the ground and take shelter and that’s what we did — we got in the bathtub and when it came through, it came through and it didn’t last long, but it seemed like forever.”

Harrell said the tornado sounded like a train.

“We could hear it coming and the closer it got, the louder it got,” she said.

Harrell and her husband were alone in the house at the time. The storm did not harm them, but their house did not fare as well.

“We have a tree on the roof and there’s some water in the house and my car is damaged — I just paid for it in December,” she said. “The back windows were knocked out and I’m not even worried about all of that. I’m just glad we weren’t hurt.”

The Harrell home was one of many the storm damaged. Their neighbors’ homes on both sides were completely destroyed. As the Harrell family stood in their yard Saturday, dozens of cars drove by. Many people yelled out, “Hey, Rose. Are y’all OK?’ ”

“We checked on the neighbors and they were OK and the fire department checked on us — they made sure everyone was OK,” she said. “They came by very early this morning.”

Harrell said and her family will be staying with relatives as they try to figure out their next move. They are temporarily without a home and without electricity, but not without hope.

“The worst is over,” she said. “We survived the storm and we will just continue to trust God as we get through the next day.”

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