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Twister rakes Hattiesburg, University of Southern Mississippi

February 10, 2013|By Marisa Gerber
  • Before taking shelter, student Jordan Holliman snapped this photo of the tornado at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Before taking shelter, student Jordan Holliman snapped this photo of the… (Jordan Holliman )

A tornado touched down in a southern Mississippi college town Sunday evening, officials said, inflicting "significant damage" and injuring at least 10 people.

"We do have significant damage throughout the city,” Kyle Hopkins, emergency operations director for Forrest County, told the Los Angeles Times. No deaths had been reported, he said, but at least 10 people were taken to a hospital with injuries.

The University of Southern Mississippi  in Hattiesburg posted a statement on its website Sunday declaring a state of emergency, confirming damage to at least four campus buildings and asking students not to return to campus until further notice.

Jordan Holliman, a junior studying international business, said he woke up from a Sunday afternoon nap to a knock on his dorm-room door and a warning about a tornado.

He thought it was a drill and covered his head with his pillow, he told The Times. After a second round of knocking, he hopped out of bed, snapped a picture of the tornado through his window and went downstairs.

After the tornado passed, campus police came around to talk to the handful of students in the dorm. (Most students were gone for the weekend, because they have school off Monday and Tuesday for Mardi Gras.)

“They said,  ‘Just hang out, you’re not allowed to leave,’” Holliman said. “We’re on a kind of lockdown, I guess.”

The Rev. David O’Dell, pastor of the Hardy Street Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, lives less than a mile from the tornado’s path.

O’Dell, his wife and their children waited out the storm in a bathroom, he told The Times. After it passed, he went outside to assess the damage.

“It’s crazy. Homes were completely destroyed, windows blown out,” O’Dell said.  “You walk down a road and you see people who just lost their home. There was a girl who was covered in debris.”

O’Dell didn’t live in Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina, but most of his congregation did.

“I just got off the phone with a church member that said he saw things he didn’t even see when Katrina came through,” O’Dell said.

The National Weather Service planned to assess the damage Monday and determine the intensity, width and track of the tornado.

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marisa.gerber@latimes.com

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