4 dead, dozens injured as tornado rips through Hattiesburg

A tornado touched down in south Hattiesburg in the early morning Saturday, leaving four people dead.

Greg Flynn, communications director for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said the tornado, which was confirmed and seen on the ground, touched down in the area of U.S. 49 and Highway 11 and traveled south.

“There are a lot of subdivisions in the path of the tornado,” Flynn said. “There is extensive home damage and it happened just a few blocks from downtown.”

The National Weather Service is sending in a team to determine the strength of the tornado, Flynn said.

A Mississippi Power spokesman said about 9,100 people were without power immediately after the tornado passed. By 1:30 p.m., that number was reduced to 4,000.

Heavy damage at William Carey

Damage can be seen along U.S. 49 just after the Pearl River Community College satellite campus. Power is out, trees are snapped about 3 feet from the ground and siding from homes is stuck in the tops of trees. First responders are directing traffic where lights are out.

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Glenn Moore, the emergency management director for Forrest County, said the twister touched down about 3:30 a.m., damaging businesses and homes.

Moore said three people were killed in mobile homes and one in a house, and at least 25 were reported injured. Moore said he thinks the number of injured will increase.

The heaviest damage, he said, was between James Street and the William Carey University campus, and in Petal near W.L. Smith Elementary School.

“The most substantial damage and injuries were at William Carey,” he said.

William Carey posted a statement on its Facebook page.

Food, relief offered to storm victims

Freddie Humphrey, who works with the homeless and lives on 40th Avenue near downtown, said he heard the tornado come over his apartment.

He said it didn’t do any damage in his area, but there was a lot of debris strewn about and heavy flooding in the area.

He said the tornado the Salvation Army on William Carey Parkway, adding a lot of homeless people were displaced by the storm as a result.

The building is closed because of the damage the tornado did, but two portable trucks will be serving food in the William Carey Parkway area to anyone who needs a hot meal.

The American Red Cross also is helping with disaster relief.

Gulfport firefighters are headed to Hattiesburg to help with recovery.

“We are working with William Carey officials to find them some classroom and dorm space in Gulfport. We will help them however we can,” Mayor Billy Hewes said.

A tornado hit the Hattiesburg area in 2013, damaging the University of Southern Mississippi campus and businesses along Hardy Street toward U.S. 59.

Shelters open for tornado victims

  • Petal Civic Center, 712 S. Main St., Petal
  • Lamar County 361 Shelter, 99 Central Industrial Row, Purvis
  • Forrest County 361 Shelter, 946 Sullivan Road, Hattiesburg