2013 Hattiesburg, Mississippi tornado
|Date||February 10, 2013|
|Time||5:03 – 5:36 pm CST|
|Areas affected||Hattiesburg, West Hattiesburg, and Petal, Mississippi (part of a larger outbreak)|
The 2013 Hattiesburg, Mississippi tornado was a large and violent EF4 multiple-vortex wedge tornado that devastated portions of West Hattiesburg, Hattiesburg, and Petal, Mississippi, as well as surrounding locations on Sunday, February 10, 2013. It was one of eight tornadoes that touched down in southern Mississippi and southwestern Alabama that day. The tornado reached a maximum path width of 0.75 mi (1.21 km) during its path through the Hattiesburg area and reached estimated maximum sustained winds of 170 mph (270 km/h) in the Oak Grove community of West Hattiesburg. It destroyed many structures and impacted University of Southern Mississippi and two high schools: Oak Grove High School and Hattiesburg High School. Mississippi was declared a federal disaster area by President Barack Obama, and a state of emergency was issued by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant.
The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) had stated as early as February 8 that a few supercells may develop on the 10th and could result in large hail, damaging winds, and a few tornadoes. When the thunderstorm outlook was issued for the 10th, the SPC stated that only a marginal chance for severe supercell thunderstorms existed and only a few storms would develop. Most of the severe activity was expected to develop along the cold front in the form of a squall line. A 10 percent chance of isolated tornadoes was introduced as the instability remained marginal for the event.
During the morning of February 10, a squall line developed along a cold front that stretched from western Arkansas, down through northwest Louisiana, and into east Texas. At the same time, a warm front was ascending northward through Mississippi and Louisiana. The area between the fronts became increasingly unstable as the day progressed, and four tornado watches were issued across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama throughout the day as the storms progressed eastward. The watches were issued as very strong wind shear and instability engrossed the area, allowing for the development of supercell thunderstorms. These watches were issued through the day, with the first being posted at 7 a.m. CST (1300 UTC) and the last coming out at 5:35 p.m. CST (2335 UTC).
As the afternoon progressed, the cold front and squall line began to stall over Louisiana and Arkansas. The supercells that developed during the afternoon ahead of the squall line originated across Louisiana and southern Mississippi. Around 4 p.m. (2200 UTC), a supercell developed and produced a tornado (rated EF2) in Marion County, Mississippi. That tornado tracked northeast and into Lamar County, where it lifted. The supercell quickly produced another tornado – this one was a large wedge tornado that would go on to hit the Hattiesburg area.
The tornado touched down west-southwest of West Hattiesburg at 5:03 p.m. CST (2303 UTC), causing EF0-strength tree damage near the Oak Grove community. The tornado rapidly intensified as it moved through northeast Lamar County, where Oak Grove High School, its baseball fields, and a housing area near the school sustained the most intense damage of any structures impacted by the tornado, with one well-built brick home being leveled and the school sustaining substantial roof damage. Extensive denuding and debarking of trees occurred in this area. Several well-constructed buildings around the athletic stadiums at the school were destroyed, with twisting/buckling of steel girders noted. Several steel light poles with concrete reinforcement were snapped as well. Vehicles were thrown considerable distances, one of which was taken from a parking lot at the high school, rolled up a hill and across the baseball field, and then deposited onto the pitcher's mound. Damage at and around Oak Grove High School was rated as low-end EF4. Just before crossing Interstate 59, it either damaged or destroyed numerous homes and caused significant roof damage to an apartment complex. It then moved into Forrest County and the northwest side of Hattiesburg.
In Forrest County, roughly 300 homes and other buildings, including a large church and several brick buildings in downtown Hattiesburg, were either damaged or destroyed. The University of Southern Mississippi sustained damage across the southern portion of the campus, including at least six buildings that were damaged and two more that were completely destroyed. Many trees, metal traffic lights, and power lines were downed as well, with some of the trees being debarked. The tornado moved into the northern part of downtown Hattiesburg, where it caused significant damage to the American Red Cross and Girl Scouts of Greater Mississippi buildings. Large metal poles were bent at the athletic fields of Hattiesburg High School, and the third base wall at the baseball field was destroyed. The basketball gymnasium sustained considerable roof damage. Damage in and around downtown Hattiesburg was rated EF2 to EF3. The tornado maintained its strength as it continued into Petal, where an ACE Hardware store was completely leveled and numerous homes were destroyed.
To the northeast of Petal, the tornado began to weaken, causing EF1 to EF2-strength damage to numerous roofs and downing many trees. The tornado weakened to EF1-strength in Perry County before weakening rapidly and lifting in a wooded area just east of the Forrest/Perry County line west-northwest of Richton at 5:36 p.m. CST (2336 UTC).
A total of eight tornadoes touched down on February 10, including one in northeast Texas, five in southeast Mississippi, and two in southwest Alabama. The tornadoes caused a total of 86 injuries.
In Texas, an EF0 tornado touched down east of Livingston in Polk County. A trailer was destroyed and trees and power lines were downed, injuring one person. In Mississippi, an EF1 tornado touched down southeast of Arm in Lawrence County, causing damage to several barns and mobile homes and downing many trees. In nearby Marion County, an EF2 touched down south of the Columbia area and traveled into Lamar County, causing significant damage to many trees and numerous structures and injuring three people. This tornado lifted and the parent supercell quickly produced another tornado, which impacted the Hattiesburg area (See above), injuring 82 people. The same supercell would later produce two EF1 tornadoes across Wayne County, causing damage to many trees and structures, before moving into Alabama and dissipating.
Two EF1 tornadoes touched down across Washington and Clarke Counties in Alabama. These tornadoes removed roofs from homes, severely damaged a few mobile homes, and downed many trees, including numerous pine trees that were snapped.
This tornado was rated as a low-end EF4, with winds up to 170 mph (270 km/h). The tornado was on the ground for 33 minutes and traveled 22.5 miles (36.2 km). At one point, the tornado reached a maximum path width of 0.75 miles (1.21 km). It damaged many buildings and athletic fields at University of Southern Mississippi, Oak Grove High School, and Hattiesburg High School. In Lamar County (where the tornado first touched down and was rated EF4), 51 homes were destroyed and another 170 suffered major damage. The tornado was slightly weaker in Forrest County (EF3); however, 192 homes were destroyed and 338 suffered major damage. The tornado injured 82 people (19 in Lamar County and 63 in Forrest County) and caused damage amounting to $38.525 million.
This was the first violent tornado to occur in Lamar and Forrest Counties since April 24, 1908, in which 143 people were killed. 64 deaths occurred in Lamar and Forrest Counties alone with that tornado.
President Barack Obama declared Mississippi a federal disaster area following the tornado. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant issued a State of emergency for Forrest, Lamar, Lawrence, and Marion Counties due to the impact of the severe storms and tornadoes in those counties.
Rain hampered cleanup efforts in the city during the days following the tornado. Schools remained closed in the Hattiesburg area until February 14, 2013, including the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). When schools reopened, school buses had to be borrowed from neighboring school districts as most of Hattiesburg's had been damaged by the tornado. USM had to move classes that were previously held in the eight damaged buildings. USM officials estimated that it would take over 10 million dollars to repair the school. Oak Grove High School in West Hattiesburg lost its athletic facilities as well as a few other buildings. The Lamar County School Superintendent said that it would take months and millions of dollars to repair. Hattiesburg High School also suffered destruction of some of its athletic facilities, including the basketball gym that had undergone renovations just a few weeks before.
Power outages in the area were as many as 13,000 just after the storm, but they were quickly reduced. The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army worked together to provide food and shelter for victims of the tornado and the Mississippi State Department of Health offered free tetanus shots at county health departments for residents of storm-affected counties.
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- February 10, 2013 Pine Belt tornado outbreak
- Tornado Event Across Southeast Mississippi and Southern Alabama