Vicksburg native among those terrorized as tornado rumbles through city, college

Published 7:39 pm Saturday, January 21, 2017

What he thought was just a thunderstorm, turned out to be much more.
“It was just like a normal night. It was raining outside and no one expected a tornado,” William Carey University student Taylor DeRossette said. DeRossette, a 2016 graduate of St. Aloysius High School, is a freshman at William Carey. He was on campus asleep in his dormitory when, at 3:30 a.m. Saturday, tornado alarms went off.
“We had never heard those before, so I just kind of kept sleeping. The next thing I know my RA (residents’ assistant) is banging on my door with an air horn telling everybody to wake up. We knew it was serious then,” DeRossette said.
He said everyone got dressed quickly, went down stairs to the lowest level of the dorm and sat in the hallway.
“Everybody got like a tornado warning at the same time (on their phones) and then all of the sudden we heard glass break. Everybody got quiet and then all of the sudden the door flung open and like a big old gust of wind blew down the hallway. It scared the heck out of everybody. It was crazy,” DeRossette said.
Although the storm did not last very long, the students remained in the hallway for more than two hours, he said.
When the students were finally able to leave, what was awaiting them proved unbelievable.
“There were at least three cars that were flipped over. Our tennis court and gym were destroyed. Trees are uprooted everywhere and half of our med school was destroyed. Cars were crashed into the cadaver lab. Our whole entire campus honestly is destroyed,” DeRossette said.
While not totally destroyed, every dorm on campus did sustain some form of damage from the tornado, DeRossette said, from missing walls to glass blown out of windows to water damage.
“The windows in my room were shattered,” he said.
In addition to the storm damage to the buildings, DeRossette said that 90 percent of the cars on campus were also damaged.
“My car has scratches all over it because the dorm it was parked next to, the windows blew out all over it, and my windshield is cracked,” he said.
With the inordinate amount of destruction the campus amassed, fortunately there were no deaths and only one serious injury, DeRossette said.
“One girl lost three fingers because a door slammed on them or something. Another girl had a seizure, but other than that people just had little glass cuts and stuff,” he said.
Giving credit to the university, DeRossette said he was impressed at how the school handled the situation.
Students were moved to the medical school auditorium, where they were checked in, he said.
“The EMTs were there. The police officers were there checking on people,” and ambulances were also available for those needing to go to the hospital.
DeRossette said he was not sure when students would resume their studies at the university, but he did hear rumors that classes could be held on the University of Southern Mississippi’s campus and or on line.
“One of my friends texted me saying it was going to be two to four months before the campus is fixed again,” he said.
DeRossette is the son of Kelly Richards and Patrick DeRossette, both of Vicksburg.
Meg Edney, the daughter of Lori and Dr. Dan Edney of Vicksburg, is also a student at William Carey.
Fortunately, she came home Friday evening, dodging the storm, but was awakened at four in the morning Saturday from texts from friends who were still on campus, her mother said.
“We heard that the building that Meg was living in was hit pretty bad,” Edney said.
In fact, after the storms had passed, Edney said Meg’s friends were only allowed to return to get a few things from their rooms.
They called Meg to ask if there was anything they should get of hers and all she requested was a Bible that had been a family keepsake, Edney said.
Like DeRosssette, Edney was not sure when the students would return to class.
“They are on the trimester system and are about two weeks away from ending the second tri, and then they would have a week off and start the next trimester. So we don’t really know what it going on. Until further notice, no school,” Edney said.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

email author More by Terri Cowart