HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Seven years ago, the Pine Belt was devastated by an EF-4 tornado.
The tornado first touched down at 5:03 p.m. on Feb. 10, 2013 just southwest of Oak Grove near Bellevue. It then intensified rapidly as it moved into Oak Grove before traveling into Hattiesburg and Petal. The tornado lifted as it approached Runnelstown.
The tornado was on the ground for 33 minutes and traveled 22.5 miles. More than 80 people were injured, but miraculously, there were no fatalities.
One of the first places that was hit by the twister was Oak Grove High School. Principal Helen Price recalled the moment it happened.
Then the tornado took aim at Midtown Hattiesburg and the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi. The campus was heavily damaged, but students organized a campus-wide cleanup. Three days after the tornado, around 1,000 students showed up to help pick up debris.
The Pine Belt also rose up together to help everyone impacted. Oak Grove High School reopened just a few days later on Valentine's Day.
While the tornado left a path of damage, it also gave new life to Midtown. The area where Elam Arms once stood is now a $35 million entertainment district headed up by Rob Tatum.
While the tornado may have brought us to its knees, one thing is for sure. We came back stronger. We see this as a bright future, no matter what we have to overcome.