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Helping our neighbors

On Tuesday, an EF3 tornado touched down in Columbia around 2:20 p.m. causing three fatalities and widespread destruction in neighboring Marion County.

According to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, 108 homes and 43 businesses in Marion County were destroyed or sustained major damage during the storm.

Late Tuesday, Gov. Phil Bryant issued a state of emergency for Marion and Jones counties, along with other parts of the state affected by severe weather Tuesday afternoon.

This is the deadliest December tornado event in Mississippi since the Vicksburg tornado on Dec. 5, 1952.

Woodlawn United Pentecostal Church on Highway 98 now serves as a disaster relief command center.

Volunteers are coming through the church, people are dropping off donations and storm victims are finding some relief in the form of clothing, blue tarps or other materials.

A post on the Columbia Mississippi Tornado Recovery Facebook page says storm victims have a desperate need for felt nails, simplex nails, roofing nails or any nails of that sort to nail down tarps. Those items are being collected at Woodlawn church.

Recovery is also underway in Jones County, where an EF2 tornado touched down Tuesday shortly after the Columbia tornado, killing two people in the Calhoun community west of Laurel and damaging or destroying 12 homes and one business in the area.

National Weather Service officials say part of the same storm system that produced the tornadoes in Marion and Jones counties also hit Sumrall.

The roof was ripped off the Kids Kampus of Sumrall day care on Mississippi 42.

About 30 children who were in the center when the storm hit were transferred to a nearby bank, and no injuries were sustained.

To help people affected by disasters like the southeast Mississippi tornadoes, visit www.redcross.org, call (800) RED-CROSS (733-27677) or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

The Greater PineBelt Community Foundation is also taking donations.  Checks can be sent to 1507 Hardy Street, Suite 208, Hattiesburg, MS 30401. Donations can also be made directly through the website: www.pinebeltfoundation.org.