HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - William Carey University will open its gates and facilities to students this weekend. This comes almost one month after the deadly EF-3 tornado ripped through the Hattiesburg and Petal communities.
"It's like a beehive," William Carey University President Tommy King said. "There has been good cooperation with insurance companies and contractors." Crews were hired locally as well as about 600 brought in to work on campus.
Ninety percent of campus was damaged in the Jan. 21 tornado, leaving six buildings destroyed on campus.
"The campus looked like a war zone," King said. "As daylight arrived, we got to the parts of campus we could get to and just shook our heads. We thought, the year is lost, we will never be able to get back."
King said the six buildings destroyed will not be ready for use by this weekend, but others damaged will be repaired in time.
The following dorms will be open: Bass, Braswell, Bryant, Byrd, Davis, Futral, Polk and the Penton Street apartments. Demolition of Johnson Hall began this week, and Ross Hall is slated for demolition.
New dorms will be built near the Byrd-Braswell and Futral-Davis dorms. Some mattresses were donated and new carpet has been laid to save time, instead of tile.
"A very small loss of enrollment, really just normal for a year," King said. "That demonstrates the loyalty of our students, they are coming back and they are going to finish their year. We are just so happy about that."
King said he is proud of his staff, especially the housing staff the morning on the tornado.
"I have to say, our housing staff implemented our crisis plan and I'm sure saved the lives of some students," he said. "William Carey had fears after (Hurricane) Katrina, but we came back stronger and we are going to come back stronger from this tornado."
Donations and support for William Carey have been overwhelming. King said the university has received tremendous support from the Hattiesburg community, Mississippi and the surrounding states.
Even as far away as Japan and China. But, while there has been great support, King said there will be a big gap between insurance and actual losses. He said they expect to need about $2 million to $5 million to fully restore campus.
The spring trimester starts Monday, but some classes will remain at The University of Southern Mississippi, including the medical school until May. For students who had classes transition to online courses, those classes will remain online.
There is a schedule for students to move back on to campus Saturday and Sunday. You can find that information here.