Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tornado Coverage Part III: USM Student Reactions

Hattiesburg, MS

Just four days after an F-4 twister passed through the University of Southern Mississippi, students and faculty members return to find the campus much different than they'd left it.

Damaged buildings on the campus include: the Mannoni Performing Arts Center; the Jazz Station; the Ogletree Alumni House; the Fine Arts Building; Marsh Hall; McLemore Hall and the unoccupied dormitory Elam Arms. Several trees, some which were over 100 years old, were destroyed by the storm leaving the front entrance of campus leveled.

Photo by Kelly Dunn

Because of an upcoming Mardi Gras holiday, fewer students were on university's campus than usual. However, some students, like Stephanie Miles, were on campus. As Miles and the cast of Sweeney Todd rehearsed for an upcoming performance, a faculty member received a call informing him of the powerful tornado that was heading toward the campus. The students sought shelter within the basement of the building just in time. There are no reported injuries from the university's campus.

Governor Phil Bryant, a USM alumnus, declared a State of Emergency for Forrest, Lamar, Lawrence and Marion counties. In reference to the damage at the university, Governor Bryant said "it is difficult to see the damage that is here."

Seeing the damage to campus is still shocking to many students, but for Jordan Garrett, seeing the outpouring of support from the campus community and neighboring communities makes him proud to be Southern Miss Golden Eagle.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tornado Coverage Part II: South MS Red Cross

Hattiesburg, MS

Even though the South Mississippi American Red Cross office on Hutchinson Avenue was leveled to the ground after an EF-4 tornado touched down in Marion, Lamar, Forrest, Lawrence and Wayne counties, that did not stop Red Cross employees and volunteers from helping the residents of the Pine Belt. 

Martha Duvall, Communications Officer for Red Cross South Mississippi says Red Cross is not a building. According to Duvall, "Red Cross is actually a spirit of compassion and a spirit of volunteerism. It's the people. It's our Red Cross volunteers and our Red Cross staff. It's really all about that giving, caring spirit."

When authorities cleared roads, the South Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross organization workers began setting up aid stations throughout the most devastated parts of the Pine Belt. 

American Red Cross South Mississippi Chapter Executive, Jay Huffstatler, says the quick response of the Red Cross is credited not only to sister Red Cross chapters and volunteers, but also to a national 1 million square foot Red Cross warehouse located in South Hattiesburg. This warehouse contains blankets, food, water, cleanup kits, comfort kits, tarps, tools, and many other supplies that aid residents in returning to normalcy after any natural disaster. 

During this time, the Red Cross encourages residents to become Red Cross volunteers just like 10-year volunteer Ann Loveless. 

For more information about becoming a volunteer, visit:

If you're in need of services in Forrest or Lamar counties, call: 601.582.8151

    Behind the scenes photo as I gathered video
    from the South Mississippi Red Cross Chapter.

Follow Me @JournalistJaunt for the latest updates! 

Tornado Coverage Part I: Apartment Damage

Hattiesburg, MS

A tornado ripped through the Pine Belt last Sunday evening (Feb. 10) leaving debris and entire neighborhoods leveled to the ground.

Photo Credit: NWS Jackson, MS

In one Hattiesburg apartment complex, residents could hear the emergency sirens blaring at least 30 minutes before the tornado hit. Residents like Latoya Wallace did not expect the tornado to cause as much damage as it did. During the tornado, Wallace, her friends, and an infant took cover in the bathroom of the apartment just before the tornado's powerful 170 mph winds took the roof off of one  building in the complex. 

Jamal Young, a resident who lives on the opposite side of the complex, came to the aid of all residents trapped in apartments shortly after the tornado passed. He joined Hattiesburg Police officers as they knocked on doors and searched apartments for anyone trapped inside.

I spoke with apartment complex owner Mike McMahan immediately following the storm, and he said that he's working hard to ensure that every resident who lost his/her homes would have a place to stay.

No residents in the complex were injured.

*The name of the complex is not mentioned in this article per request of the owner and apartment manager.

For more photos from this apartment complex, visit my twitter feed: @JournalistJaunt

Friday, November 16, 2012


Ellisville, Mississippi

Andy and Lori Key from the Nathan's Legacy Foundation stop at Jones County Junior College to give children more than just candy on Halloween. The Keys gave the children an interactive lesson about school bus safety.

The Keys created a homemade school bus from fabric, PVC pipe, and lights to use as an instructional tool for teaching children about school bus safety. According to Lori Key, the activity helps children understand that "people who drive now should stop when the stop sign is out on the school bus."

The line of children waiting to play the game simulates cars stopping for the school bus as students embark and disembark. The children can only pass the bus to get a prize when they've thrown a ball and completely knocked the stop sign in. Prizes for the event were donated from Wal-Mart in Meridian, MS.

Also, the Keys and other members of the Nathan's Legacy Foundation handed out instructional information to parents and reminded children who ride the school bus of safety rules.

Parents like Shaquita Jones and Kristy Turner hope that the foundation will continue to bring events like this one to children because it's not only informative, but it brings the community together for a great cause - to help another Nathan survive.


Jones County, MS

On December 11, 2009, a motorist ignored the flashing lights and extended arm of the stop sign on a school bus and killed 5-year-old Nathan Key as he crossed the street to go home.

After Nathan's death, his parents Andy and Lori Key vowed to prevent this from happening to another child. The Keys' first step was to stiffen the penalties for unlawfully passing a stopped school bus. Senate Bill 2472, also known as Nathan's Law, passed on July 1, 2011.

The Keys also started the Nathan's Legacy Foundation, Inc. to keep Nathan's legacy alive. The non-profit organization is the National Association To Help Another Nathan Survive.

Nathan's Legacy Foundation members travel throughout the state to spread school bus safety awareness to children. Along with educating students during school visits, the Keys work with Mississippi's School Bus Safety Task Force to ensure that motorists, bus drivers, and students exercise caution around school buses. Initially, the School Bus Safety Task Force was established to last only one year, but under an executive order from Gov. Phil Bryant, the task force will remain.

The Keys will continue to work with the Nathan's Legacy Foundation and organizations like Mississippi's School Bus Safety Task Force to keep children safe.

Monday, November 5, 2012


- Hattiesburg, MS

As of 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 14.9 percent of the nation is food insecure or regularly hungry. Mississippi and Arkansas have the highest rate of food insecurity with a 19.2 percent hunger rate. 

In an attempt to heighten awareness of hunger issues in the state of Mississippi, Main Street Books employees in downtown Hattiesburg host an Empty Bowls fundraiser. Employees first collected over 300 handcrafted and painted bowls from local artists like Elizabeth Huffmaster. Then, the employees sold the bowls for 20 dollars each. 

On opening night of the fundraiser, participants who purchased bowls received a warm bowl of soup. The business also accepted 500 dollars worth of food from Big Star Supermarket to donate to the food pantry. All proceeds and donations from the fundraiser go to the Edward Street Fellowship Center in Hattiesburg.  

The fundraiser, according to Carolyn Critz, is not only only about raising money and collecting donations for the Edwards Street Fellowship Center, but it is also about bringing awareness for the many starving families that are in the state. 

These bowls are not just carefully crafted pieces of art; for those who purchase them, they are a daily reminder that there are families who need food. 

Employees have yet to sell all of the bowls, but they are excited to continue selling them to help combat hunger issues in the state. 

Stay connected with me on Twitter: @JournalistJaunt

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Trouble Viewing the Video? Click 'Read More' then try again.
- Hattiesburg, MS

Team members from the Hub City Derby DamesSouthern Misfits are rough and tough in the skating rink, but when the skates come off, these ladies are compassionate and kind.

Members of the team, like Kristin McNair, live perfectly normal lives outside of the rink. The ladies' occupations range from wives to doctors to army servicewomen to administrative assistants. When the skates are on and the crowd is cheering, these women are anything but ordinary.

Along with team members' balancing work while skating circles around the competition in the rink, they are also community service volunteers. Team members have collected Toys For Tots and have worked to build homes for habitat build projects. For Breast Cancer Awareness month, team members joined with The Grand Theatre in Hattiesburg for a screening of Derby Baby with all proceeds being donated to the Pink Ribbon Fund. The team was able to donate over 500 dollars to the cause. Southern Misfits' Coach Lee Chambliss says that team members will continue their involvement with philanthropic events because it's good for team morale and the personal growth of each of the members.

As the derby season progresses, the Southern Misfits are dedicated to making the best of the season while they display their dedication to community service.

Follow me on Twitter: @JournalistJaunt