William Carey students move back into dorms

William Carey students move back into dorms

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - William Carey students moved back into campus dorms Saturday, less than a month after the deadly EF-3 tornado hit the Pine Belt.

Hundreds of students were forced to relocate after the tornado ripped through the William Carey campus Jan. 21.  The university said 90 percent of the campus was damaged, and the storm completely destroyed six buildings.

But, with what President Tommy King called  "good cooperation" between the insurance company and contractors, over 600 workers helped get facilities fixed up and ready for students before the spring trimester.

 "I didn't think it would be ready this quickly.  But, I know people have been working really hard to get this place ready so we can go back to school," said Resident Director Thomas Roberson. "It feels like home again, coming back, being able to move everyone back in. A place you know is your home away from home."

Roberson said he's coming back to his position "with 110 percent" after the storm, so he can do the best to his ability to help the university.

Senior Ryan Lott moved into the same room Saturday morning that he was in the morning the tornado hit.  "'I remember being on my bed, almost falling asleep," Lott said.  "I heard some sirens go off in the distance and thought - oh my gosh, this is not a drill."

Lott said it was his first time in a tornado.  He said his friends shut their doors and got into the hallway until the storm passed.  Lott's fiancé, WCU senior Tonya Teasley, was in another dorm, Bass Hall, when the storm went through campus.

""We were sitting there texting each other and it was really hard," Teasley said.  She said Lott's phone died, so they had to wait about three hours to speak with each other once all students were moved to a safe location.

"There's so much tension built up when there is someone you love but know you can't get to them.  There's a lot of unanswered questions," Lott said.  "Just getting to see her answered all my questions."

Teasley was able to move into an apartment complex on Hardy Street that offered WCU students impacted by the storm free rent for six months.

The following dorms are 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.

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. You can find that information here.