Hattiesburg neighborhood near USM devastated by storm - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Hattiesburg neighborhood near USM devastated by storm

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HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) -

Heavily damaged homes line the streets of a Hattiesburg neighborhood, just east of the USM campus. Residents found it hard to process the extent of devastation.

"It's a mess. Lot of devastation. A lot of these areas look worse than Katrina. Not as widespread as Katrina, but every bit as much devastation," said Kelly O'Neal, who brought his chainsaw to help neighbors clear their storm damaged properties.

Westminster Presbyterian had been one of the prettiest churches in town. Now, says pastor Steve Ramp, it is one of the most wounded.

"What this tells us is don't get too attached to your things. They could be gone in an instant," said the minister.

Damon Miller couldn't believe his eyes as he walked the neighborhood where he grew up.

"This is crazy. I'm at a loss for words right now," he said, shaking his head as he walked the storm damaged street.

"It's always amazing to see Mississippians and the resilience and determination. Families that are out working together, picking up debris around their homes," said Governor Phil Bryant, at a late morning news conference.

Officials say an early storm warning from the National Weather Service could possibly have saved lives; giving people enough time to protect themselves.

"I've always said, if we can get through these storms without any deaths and all we have to do is clean up the mess, it would be wonderful," said MEMA director, Robert Latham.

Eddie Simmons says he's thankful his girlfriend and her mother were at his house when the storm hit. Because their home took a powerful hit.

"I think it could have been a lot worse. And from what I've heard, no one died. You understand? So, that's a blessing right there," said Simmons.

It's a blessing that has left so many people, feeling thankful.

"There were some miracles here. Some silver linings. We're looking for them hard," said Pastor Ramp.

Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny Dupree was among the residents whose homes were damaged by the storm. At Monday's news conference, he vowed his city would come back, "stronger than we were before."

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.

SLIDESHOW: Hattiesburg Tornado Damage

See pictures from the Hattiesburg area of damage from Sunday's tornado. More>>

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