The tornado spawned from a storm system moving across the Gulf Coast states of Mississippi and Alabama. The same system is reportedly causing blizzard conditions in the north-central portion of the United States.
At 5:12 p.m. CST, a tornado was reported
3 miles west of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Rynal Grant was at work at a hotel in Hattiesburg, MS when he heard what he describes
as a "freight train". When the power went out, he looked outside to see what was happening. Seeing a funnel cloud on the ground, he began recording video of the damage.
According to Forrest County Fire Coordinator Chip Brown, major damage is being reported in Hattiesburg and Petal, including heavy damage on the University of Southern Mississippi campus. A state of emergency has been issued by the University Police Department. According to a news release
issued by the department, no injuries have been reported on campus, but four buildings have been confirmed to be damaged by the tornado.
Aaron Greer, director of Marion County Emergency Management, told WDAM
one mobile home has been confirmed to have been destroyed and at least two more were damaged. At least three people are reported to have been injured, with one being taken by ambulance to an area hospital.
The tornado caused the roof of this Hattiesburg home to collapse, falling on a 2-year-old child. Rachel told Digital Journal the home belongs to her sister, Brooke. The 2-year-old child, and a 4-year-old who was also in the home, were not injured. The family dog was killed however.
Jeff Rent, director of external affairs with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, states no deaths have been reported, but officials are searching the area for victims. He told USA Today
"We're still in response mode. Search and rescue operations are going on, going door-to-door in damaged areas. It happened close to dusk, so it's dark now. They're trying to make sure people are accounted for, they're safe and everybody who needs assistance has it.''
Digital Journal spoke with a dispatcher from the Hattiesburg Police Department. She stated:
"I can confirm there is extensive damage in parts of the city, but no deaths have been reported. Our police officers and members of the fire department are searching the area for injured or trapped residents. So far we have not found anyone trapped in their home, but the search continues."
She could not confirm the number of people who have reportedly been injured by the tornado.
Damage has also been reported at Oak Grove High School in West Hattiesburg. Video of damage to what appears to be an athletic field has been posted on YouTube.
A possible tornado has caused downed trees and power lines in Arm, Mississippi, located approximately 60 miles west of Hattiesburg. Damage to at least three homes and several barns has been reported
. Homes in neighboring Pickwick have also been damaged. Five people have been injured according to reports
. It is unclear at this time if the damage was caused by a third tornado or if it is related to the Arm or Hattiesburg tornado.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has issued a State of Emergency
for portions of the state. The counties involved include Forrest, Lamar, Lawrence and Marion.
At 9:17 p.m., the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning
for the southern portion of Clarke County, Alabama. A tornado warning was also been issued for central Washington County, Alabama. Digital Journal will provide updates as they become available.