Among those who felt lucky to be alive Sunday was 49-year-old Margie Murchison, who was visiting with a friend when her husband started screaming for them to take shelter from the approaching storm in a nearby culvert. They sprinted out of the house as debris flew around them and made it to the conduit that runs under the road. A tree crashed behind them as they made it to their hiding place.
"For a minute there, that wind was so strong I couldn't breathe," Murchison said.
Said Murchison's friend, 55-year-old Wayne Cassell: "If we had wasted any seconds, we wouldn't have made it."
After the storm passed, there were trees down all around the Murchison home. She said there was part of the roof damaged and leaking. Windows were broken out and the detached garage was leaning.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn said it appears a single tornado caused the damage in Forrest, Marion and Lamar counties. Hundreds of homes are damaged in Forrest County, along with a couple dozen in the other two.
Flynn said the sheer scope of the damage was slowing officials' assessment.
"The problem is, it was so strong that there's so much debris that there's a lot of areas they haven't been able to get to yet," he said.
On campus, trees were snapped in half around the heavily damaged Alumni House where part of the roof was ripped away. Windows in a nearby building were blown out, and heavy equipment worked to clear streets nearby in a heavy rain after the worst of the weather had passed.
The university released a statement saying no one was hurt but that it was under a state of emergency, and anyone away from campus should stay away until further notice.