Homes wrecked, dozens hurt in Mississippi tornado

Published On: Feb 11 2013 05:37:03 AM HST

Residents shaken by a tornado that mangled homes in Mississippi woke up Monday to a day of removing trees, patching roofs and giving thanks for their survival.

The storm tore across Mississippi damaging about 300 homes and buildings, the National Weather Service said. More than 60 people were treated for injuries at Forrest General Hospital, NWS said..

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Gov. Phil Bryant plans to visit hard-hit Hattiesburg, where a twister moved along one of the city's main streets and damaged buildings at the governor's alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi.

The tornado took down part of the Alumni Center on U.S. 49 south of the USM stadium. There were also trees down at U.S. 49 and Hardy Street.

Hattiesburg pilot Eric Price had his cellphone ready Sunday when the tornado plowed through the city.

"Oh my God, I've never seen a tornado before in my life," Price said on the video.

"To see debris flying in the air -- what I thought was roofs, possibly cars, houses, people's lives destroyed right in front of me -- and it's nobody's fault except Mother Nature's. It was just breathtaking," Price told 16 WAPT's Erin Kelly.

There were few students on campus Sunday. USM had a four-day break for Mardi Gras. There were no classes scheduled Monday or Tuesday because of the campus holiday.

"We've been through hurricanes, but a tornado is a first," said Joe Paul, vice president of student affairs. "I've been here over 30 years. So, it's both scary, but when we look and see that the heart of the campus is fine, our students are fine, I feel really blessed."

USM officials said the tornado damaged six academic buildings and leveled historic oak trees.

"These trees -- the biggest thing is that they're 150-, 200-year-old trees, and you realized what they've been through with all the storms we've had and all that and now they're gone," said Loren Erickson, USM's landscape director.

At least 9,700 were still without power Monday, said the Electric Power Associations of Mississippi. The majority of the outages were in Forrest and Lamar counties, officials said.

Emergency officials said late Sunday that they weren't aware of any deaths.

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