Ole Miss students deal with realities of the Hattiesburg tornado
By: Taylor Lewis
Oxford, MS – Hattiesburg native and Ole Miss student Jarrius Adams woke up Saturday morning to find out on Facebook that his hometown had been devastated by a tornado with winds ranging from 136 to 165 mph.
Despite Adam’s home having been unharmed, many of his friends who attend William Carey University truly experienced the effects of the natural disaster. He had one friend whose uncle had been crushed by a tree, another who fractured her leg, and many whose cars were demolished.
“I’ll just describe the area, as once being a big community of houses and now been transformed into a field, like the houses are completely laid flat,” said Adams.
Like Adams, Petal Native and Ole Miss student, Candaysha Jones, was personally affected by the disaster.
“I wasn’t present, but it hit my hometown and where I grew up. Thank god it didn’t hit my family’s home, but it affected a lot of my friends and their family’s.
It was such a heartbreaking experience because I saw the devastation of my hometown on national news,” Jones said.
Both students felt helpless because they were stuck between going home and the semester starting on Monday, but both are already thinking of the ways that they can help their community even though they can’t physically be there.
“I sat back a few hours after I found out. I was in the pulse leadership conference wondering, ‘What can I do? What can I do? What can I do?’ I thought, ‘Well I can’t be there, but I can still do something,’” Adams said.
Thinking of ways to get people involved that couldn’t go home, Adams developed the idea of creating a GoFundMe page in order to raise money to aid the Hattiesburg area.
Adams has also made efforts to involve UM in aiding William Carey University.
“What I’ve done is contact the Ole Miss Treasury, knowing that they have helped other universities in the past during times of need, in hopes of figuring out ways to help the Hattiesburg area and raise money on campus.”
Candaysha Jones said she is eager to go back home as soon as possible so that she can assess the damage for herself. She plans on returning in February after the semester has progressed and getting hands-on with helping her community restore order.
Adjusting back to campus life after experiencing such an event back home hasn’t been easy for either students, but the University is currently planning ways to help students return to a normal campus life.
This past summer, Ole Miss brought on Barb Russo to serve as the University’s Emergency Management Coordinator and to help the University community when dealing with natural and manmade disasters.
“Disasters are never mindful of time. This one came at the worst time possible for students because many are still trying to get back to campus and start classes. As a University community we think “how is this going to impact students getting back to campus on time.” Russo, having been interviewed on her way to Hattiesburg, said.
Russo adds that the University of Mississippi has in place several plans for many different natural and manmade disasters, which these plans can be accessed at any time.
UM also offers counseling services to those affected by the tornado. Russo said that, in any emergency, the individuals that are affected have physical needs, logistical needs, and psychological needs.
“The ultimate goal with any emergency is to return things to status quo as quickly as possible. We have a crisis action team that monitors weather patterns and looks out for these types of disasters 24/7 and 365 days a year,” Russo said. “We also use the RebAlert system to keep students up to date with emergency-related information and to remain as instantaneous as possible with our reaction.”
Moving forward, Jones and Adams have started the semester and are actively thinking of ways they can help their community.
The University is prepared to help students affected by disasters, like Jones and Adams, through the oversight of Barb Russo.
“Universities, like William Carey, may not recover for years, but as a university you try to prepare for these events as best as possible so that the lives of your students can return to normal as quickly as possible,” Russo said.
Hattiesburg and the surrounding areas are dealing with the realities of this latest natural disaster, but the Ole Miss community and its students are being affected in ways that aren’t always noticed.