No tornado deaths in Hattiesburg a miracle

Published 1:00 pm Saturday, February 23, 2013

Yes, miracles do happen.

And no place is more indicative of that at the moment than Hattiesburg, where an EF4 tornado ripped through the city and surrounding community late Feb. 10.

It seems strange, of course, talking about a miracle when so much damage was done. Hattiesburg won’t likely be through picking up the pieces for weeks if not months from the storm’s damage.

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With winds on the ground as high as 145 miles per hour in Oak Grove and 140 miles per hour in Hattiesburg, the powerful tornado injured more than 80 people, closed some 50 roads and damaged roughly 570 homes and mobile homes and another 100 apartments.

The University of Southern Mississippi was hit hard, too, as the tornado that traveled down a Hattiesburg main street ultimately hit several buildings on campus, ripping away structure and hurling debris and trees amid tossed and turned cars.

Miraculously, however, no deaths were reported from the Feb. 10 EF4 tornado devastation.

Preparedness certainly gets credit for a helping hand in the miracle. Tornado warnings sounded as early as 30 minutes before the tornado struck led many to shelter. And Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant had designated Feb. 4-8 as Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Mississippi since we are approaching peak severe storm and tornado season.

Mississippi has more tornadoes and more violent tornadoes than nearly any state in the country, and 42 people in the state died in severe weather in 2011, according to the National Weather Service. So early warnings and citizens heeding those early warnings by seeking shelter, can and will save lives.

That’s something all should remember as we get through the remainder of the tornado high-season which continues through April. The sirens and warnings can seem like an annoyance, but as we saw in Hattiesburg, the biggest storms can strike when we least expect. …

We had EF4 tornado packing winds on the ground at 140 miles per hour travel along a major roadway in one of Mississippi’s biggest cities. The damage was severe. But no lives were lost.

That can only be called a miracle.