Shortly after waking Saturday morning, I looked at the Mississippi news from overnight.
I couldn’t believe it – another tornado had hit Hattiesburg.
Just four years ago (2013), when both Emma and Andy were attending the University of Southern Mississippi, an EF4 tornado struck Hattiesburg. Amazingly, no one was killed, but there was tons of damage, including on the USM campus.
An EF3 tornado hit Hattiesburg this past Saturday around 3:30 a.m. Four deaths have been reported and lots of devastation in the city, at William Carey University and in the Petal area. There was at least 15 miles of damage with winds between 136 and 165 miles per hour. More than 50 were injured in Forrest County. More than 400 homes were damaged.
Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency and “ordered all available resources toward rescue and recovery.”
As I looked at the photos Saturday morning, the images were all too familiar.
I recalled when I rode around Holly Springs on Christmas Eve 2015, taking photos the morning after a tornado hit the Holly Springs area.
I recalled April 3, 1974, when an EF5 tornado wiped the small town of Guin, Ala., off the map. It is located near where I was raised in Marion County, Ala.
I recalled rushing to Hackleburg when a tornado destroyed the small Alabama town on April 27, 2011. It, too, is in Marion County. That EF5 tornado leveled the house once owned by my grandparents and then the home of my uncle and aunt. The two of them managed to somehow survive from inside the home.
Needless to say, I’ve seen the destruction of tornados firsthand. And it’s scary – real scary.
A few weeks back I wrote a story, which ran on the front page of The South Reporter, headlined, “Take sirens seriously.”
Holly Springs Fire Chief Kenny Holbrook warned residents to take the severe weather sirens seriously – very seriously – each time they sound.
“Every time the sirens sound, that means we received another warning,” he said. “It’s indication of a tornado popping up nearby. The warnings are triggered by our first source, Code Red, and when the sirens go off, it means take cover immediately.”
Every Saturday at noon, the sirens are tested. They automatically go off at that time.
There are seven sirens in the city, and one more will be added in the center of town, by the Marshall County Health Department, this year.
As we all know, the weather this winter has been crazy. Saturday morning, I put on shorts to go to the post office. Temperatures reached the 70s. Then Monday, we were in the 40s. And the forecast for Tuesday (of this week) called for 60s again.
Please, take severe weather warnings seriously.
And please, pray for the people of Hattiesburg as they face the devastation left behind by a tornado for the second time in four years.