Survivors recount EF-2 tornado in Lamar County - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Survivors recount EF-2 tornado in Lamar County

Alkeyna Bilal, of Lamar County, walks along Rocky Branch Road as she surveys the damage left behind by Thursday night’s EF-2 tornado. Bilal rode out the storm in her home with seven others, who all made it out safely. Alkeyna Bilal, of Lamar County, walks along Rocky Branch Road as she surveys the damage left behind by Thursday night’s EF-2 tornado. Bilal rode out the storm in her home with seven others, who all made it out safely.
LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) -

Survey crews from the National Weather Service confirmed that an EF-2 tornado swept through a portion of Lamar County Thursday night, but the survival stories that emerged show the resilience of the residents.

“Overall this is an EF-2 tornado, that's more typical of what we see and what we call a cool season tornado and typically they are short tracked tornados,” said Dan Byrd, NWS Meteorologist.

The tornado, packing winds of roughly 115 mph, tracked north east nearly four miles.

By 8 p.m. Thursday, members of the Oloh, Sumrall, and Hickory Grove Volunteer Fire Department's were searching damaged homes in the Oloh community. Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Department Search and Rescue team also joined the roughly 25 volunteers amidst the debris. 

At first light Friday morning, county road crews were working to clear debris from roadways.

“This is something that you just hope never happens, and when it does, it’s bad, but we got lucky, again… we managed to get a tornado, and made it out with no injuries,” Lamar County Emergency Management Director James Smith said. “It just goes to show you, we are not in control.”

In each yard of a damaged or destroyed home, there was a survival story.

“I was at home and I just saw the rain coming, and I told my boy to open the door cause I love to watch it rain,” Lamar County resident Alkeyna Bilal said. “Then we just heard boom, and the lights went out, it sounded like swoosh, whoooosh, I thought I was gone.”

MOBILE USERS: Click here for damage photos 

Bilal said her and the seven people in her house huddled together on her prayer rug and waited.

Her home received significant damage, and was covered in tarps Friday by volunteers and Lamar County Jail inmates.

Another heavily damaged home, with one tree left standing wrapped in twisted metal roofing, belonged to Jerry Wakeley.

“I definitely don’t want to do it again, it was scary,” Wakeley said. “It was a heck of a ride, that’s for sure.”

He said he is lucky to be alive; he was outside his home when the tornado hit.

“I ended up along the house, right at the back side, I didn’t want to die,” Wakeley said.

“Actually there was a pipe, it went up to the washing machine, and I had to hold that pipe, and I don’t know where it went, but I was right there, kneeling down, kneeling on my knees, I finally just put my head to the ground,” Wakeley said.

While walking through the debris near the back of his property, Wakeley found the hat he was wearing when he held on to the pipe to save his life.

Clothes, toys and other personal belongings were scattered around yards, roadways and caught in trees.

“We lost a lot of things, but its all material, we can replace it, but you can’t replace a life,” Wakeley said.

Friday morning sounds of chainsaws echoing down the streets played in the background as volunteers, county workers and home owners worked together to start piecing together their lives.

“We have some of the finest county employees in the State of Mississippi, we had crews here until 2 a.m. and again at first light,” Lamar County District 5 Supervisor Dale Lucas said. “So many people are offering to chip in and help and donate stuff to get this process underway, it just makes things a lot easier.”

County supervisors signed a disaster declaration, declaring the county a disaster area, to free up funding.

Lucas said that form would also be submitted to Gov. Phil Bryant’s office as well.

“To have another tornado cut through Lamar County and not have a single fatality is just a blessing, it is unbelievable,” Lucas said. 

Emergency management officials are working with the weather service to compile a list of the damaged homes and areas to have an accurate number.

“I’m thankful to be alive, thankful my family is alright and just thankful no one lost their life,” Bilal said. 

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