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.