2/11/13

Tornado in Hattiesburg

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DCP_0033.JPG (Photo credit: vjack)
Until yesterday, I could not say that I had ever heard what a tornado sounds like up close. I thought I had once before, but I really hadn't. I learned that yesterday afternoon when a large tornado touched down west of Hattiesburg and continued well into town, carving a path of destruction along the way.

Shortly after I heard the tornado siren going off for the second time, I started to hear a strange whistling sound that was becoming louder and louder. A quick look out the window told me that this was the real thing. The sky, which had been fairly bright only moments ago, was now dark. I became aware of what I can only describe as an abrupt change in air pressure and an odd tingling sensation - it was almost as if the air was becoming charged with electricity. The lights started to flicker, alternating between being fully on and only about halfway on. It was as if everything was on a dimmer switch being turned down halfway.

I turned off my computer and ran through the house unplugging everything. The sensation of electricity in the air increased, and the loud whistling now sounded more like a howl. This was not looking good.

I know one is supposed to get away from windows and move to an interior room during a tornado warning. The problem is that we get these warnings so often and they last so long that I'd practically have to live in my closet to do that. There was something different about this one though, and so I decided it was time to get to the closet.

On the way to the closet, I paused in front of my back door. The last time I saw the trees moving like that was during Hurricane Katrina. The howling sound was even worse, and I could feel the wind blowing through the frame around the door. It was so strong it felt as if the door could be blown in. Into the closet.

A preliminary damage assessment, consisting of me walking around in the rain with a flashlight was promising. Many downed tree branches, a few on the roof, but nothing too serious. I'll be heading outside this morning to take a more thorough look once I have a bit more light.

The campus of the University of Southern Mississippi sustained major damage. It sounds like 4 buildings were badly damaged. Many neighborhoods between where I live and the university were also damaged. Some of my friends are still without power, some have roof damage, and some had their air conditioning/heating units ripped from the ground and tossed across the street. A few apartment complexes where students live seem to be missing large portions of their roofs. If you have seen the same photos and amateur videos being collected by the local media, you'll know that I was lucky and that today will be the beginning of a prolonged period of clean up in the Hattiesburg area.

I hope those of you in the area came through this one okay too.

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