4 dead after tornado rips through south Mississippi

Lights out and lines down after tornado rips through Pine Belt

According to NWS, the storm was at least an EF-3 storm; however, some of the hardest hit areas have not been assessed.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol reported that Interstate 59 north of Hattiesburg was closed due to debris and most roads in Petal were deemed impassible.

Photos posted on the university's Twitter feed showed vehicles in a parking lot flipped over and parts of a brick building ripped down.

Mississippi Power Company said 8,314 customers were without power after the storm.

Power lines have been reported down on the campus at the Hwy 49 entrance.

Most of Hattiesburg's damage appeared to be on the downtown's outskirts, DuPree said.

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The town's mayor, Johnny DuPhree, issued an emergency declaration for the city, which has reported "significant injuries" and structural damage. Its Tradition campus near the coast is still open.

Glen Moore, director of Forrest County Emergency Management, told ABC that his office received reports of people trapped in homes that were either destroyed or collapsed.

The university said some students had minor injuries, and some dorms were damaged.

The university tweeted that the Hattiesburg campus is closed until further notice: "Students are being escorted from campus".

A tornado watch was in effect for parts of Alabama through most of Saturday morning, the National Weather Service said. Flynn said the tornado touched down in Lamar, plowed through Forrest and then struck Perry before dissipating.

The same official also said the line of storms that produced the tornado had moved through Forrest and Lamar counties and into Perry and Jones counties. Morgan, a self-employed building contractor, said he would have to take off work to tend to his family's needs and board up windows. The best way to get up-to-date information during this event is to "Like" MEMA on Facebook, or "Follow" us on twitter @msema.