City leaders remember Jan. 21 tornado

City leaders remember Jan. 21 tornado

PINE BELT (WDAM) - City leaders in Hattiesburg and Petal are remembering the Jan. 21, 2017 tornado.

"You go through a flood, a hurricane, a tornado, I mean, what else is left," said former Hattiesburg mayor Johnny Dupree. "Well, another tornado and I just couldn't believe that that would happen."

"It's something you don't want to go through once, you sure don't want to go through it twice," said Hal Marx, mayor of Petal. "It's hard to believe it's been a year since then, but it's still very vivid in my mind, all those memories."

Dupree and Marx not only have vivid memories of the damage done by the tornado, but also memories of how their communities worked together to comfort each other, to clean up and rebuild.

"Can you imagine if our community was not a community that came together," Dupree said. "Can you imagine if we had a community that was not prepared and that's what stands out to me."

"That's the whole outlook of people is 'don't let it slow us down and we're not going to let it stop us,'" said Marx. '"We're going to just pick back up, dust off, rebuild.'"

Dupree says rebuilding an area like the East Jerusalem neighborhood, which was hard hit, will be difficult and he's concerned it may never be the same.

"(Some residents) either had no insurance, under-insured or not insurable, so many won't be back," said Dupree.

But, Marx is more confident that all Petal neighborhoods affected by the storm will fully recover.

"There are some empty lots and I realize that not everyone is going to build back," Marx said. "I have no doubt that eventually, someone is going to come along and want to build houses on those lots."

Marx also said most businesses affected by the storm have chosen to reopen in Petal.