Tornado rips through Miss. State U.; 4 hurt

Chuck Cariker, a Mississippi State University alumnus from Tunica, Miss., looks through his motor home after a tornado tore through the Starkville campus and swept his vehicle off the ground on Sunday.Russ Houston / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A tornado spawned by the remnants of Hurricane Rita ripped through Mississippi State University’s campus, injuring four people and forcing cancellation of Monday’s classes.

The tornado was one of at least 14 twisters that touched down Sunday in Mississippi, meteorologists said. More than 100 homes were damaged, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said. At least three tornadoes struck in Arkansas on Saturday.

By dawn Monday, the fading remnants of Rita were centered 80 miles north-northwest of Indianapolis and moving to the north-northeast at 30 mph.

The university cafeteria and some tennis courts were damaged as the tornado plucked trees, telephone and power lines from the ground.

“We have many trees and power lines affected,” university President Charles Lee said. “And to allow campus crews to work safely, we are asking students and nonessential personnel to remain at home Monday morning.”

Five mobile homes damaged
The four people injured were treated and released, the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office said. No additional details were available.

At the nearby University Hills trailer park, at least five mobile homes were severely damaged, an RV was rolled on its side, and some minor injuries were reported.

“They sounded the sirens, but it was pretty much too late,” said Glenn Palmer, the park’s weekend manager. “I looked outside and saw the funnel cloud coming and knew we were in trouble.”

In central Arkansas, a tornado with 155 mph winds stayed on the ground for nearly 10 miles, damaging homes and a church. The church’s steeple was sheared off and blown across a highway, meteorologist John Robinson said.

Tornadoes were among the deadliest elements of Hurricane Rita, which made landfall Saturday on the Texas-Louisiana line. Two deaths have been directly attributed to the storm: one person died Saturday in north-central Mississippi when a tornado overturned a mobile home, and an east Texas man was struck by a fallen tree.