The cleanup begins after a tornado rips through Hattiesburg, MS

USM Music building
USM Music building
Damage on USM campus
Damage on USM campus

HATTIESBURG, MS (WAFB) - Devastated and hurt are words people are using to describe the way they feel about the way the City of Hattiesburg looks after a tornado struck Sunday night. People in the community have come together to start the cleanup process. With news that no one was killed during the storm, residents are saying they are thankful the storm was not worse.

Some homes were spared and others were completely destroyed. Trees were knocked down and cars were tossed around. The tornado cut a 75 mile path through four counties.

The historic Ogletree House and the home of the president were damaged as Sunday night's tornado tore through the University of Southern Mississippi campus. In all, six buildings on campus will need repair; that's including the music building which has a "whole so big you can see right through it."

Parts of the USM campus are littered with debris. Tree limbs are down, crews are repairing broken power lines and students who stayed on campus for the Mardi gras holiday are now finding windows on their vehicles are blown out. In some cases, their cars are crushed.

"It's incredible, I'm amazed. Feels like a nightmare, I'm waiting to wake up," said Latifah Lowe.

Lowe says Sunday night she could barely make out just how much of Hattiesburg was damaged. When daylight came, she and her son were able to see just how things looked.

"This is my city. This is where I grew up, just kind of hurt me to see that," said Lowe.

For some, they say the sights are reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina. Now, just like then, the community has come together to get the city back in shape.

The tornado destroyed at least 300 home structures and closed 50 roads. Thousands are still without power. While several dozens were injured, Governor Phil Bryant says thankfully the state was spared of anything worse.

People were sending messages on Facebook and Twitter asking how they can help. City Councilman Dave Ware says he expected just a handful of helpers, but several dozen showed up at a local donut shop to find out where and how they could be used.

For those who are looking at their lives that have been leveled to piles of rubble, somehow they have found the strength to be thankful for what the tornado did not take.

There are still about 2,000 students on the USM campus. Only broken windows were reported at the residence halls. As for the rest of the city, the Mayor says they are okay and they will be back stronger than they were before.

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