Rebuilding a better campus: Carey six months after tornado

It’s a hot, sunny summer day in Hattiesburg today, July 21, 2017. Six months ago in the early morning hours of January 21, many of our Carey students awoke to rain, thunder and lightning as storms rolled through the Pine Belt, bringing with them the EF-3 tornado that tore through our campus. 
That is a day that will remain in our memories, but we have made great progress in rebuilding the campus in a short amount of time. In those first hours, the university administration assured us Carey would come back stronger than ever, and indeed we are. “Carey Strong” was not just a slogan we adopted; we lived it and demonstrated it through the dedication of our students, faculty, staff and the community that supported us. 
“Losing so much in the tornado was a tragedy, but the opportunity to rebuild a better campus is a challenge that comes once in a generation,” said President Tommy King on the six-month anniversary of the tornado. 
After the spring trimester ended in May, the second phase of repairs and rebuilding began. Construction crews have been hard at work throughout campus this summer. All the dorm rooms are being repainted and new tile installed on the floors. New windows have been installed in almost every building on campus. Remember that big gaping hole on the front of Green Science building? It’s no longer there; the walls have been rebuilt and a much-needed elevator installed. 
The College of Osteopathic Medicine’s anatomy lab was a complete loss and had to be torn down. The new lab is almost finished and will be ready for the new class of medical students that arrives next week. The Doctor of Physical Therapy program has also moved back to campus, and classes have gone on as scheduled this summer.
When students return to campus in August, there will be a new academic building on County Drive, next to the new Waddle Sports Facility. This building will house the classes that were in Tatum Court and the School of Business while the new Asbury Academic Building is constructed. Upon completion of the Asbury building, the building on County Drive will be converted into a band hall, dance studio, and classrooms.
Construction has started on the new dorms to replace Ross and Johnson Halls. The new dorms will be ready in August 2018 and will provide 50 additional rooms that we did not have before the tornado.
We recently received good news regarding the School of Business building. Immediately after the tornado, we were not sure we could save the building due to the extensive damage. Once it was decided the building could be saved, we thought it would be August 2018 before we could move back into it. But the contractors are now saying it can be ready by October 2017.
Construction of the new Tatum Court will begin soon and is expected to take 12-14 months. 
As we begin the new school, year we will focus on our new theme, “God is our refuge and strength,” based on Psalm 46, the scripture found on the open pages of the pulpit Bible in Bass Memorial Chapel following the tornado.
While we have made progress in the past six months, there is still much work to do to rebuild our campus. As construction continues, let’s remember Carey’s strength is not found in buildings; it is found in the Carey family which is grounded in scripture, rooted in faith, and driven by mission.
Click here to view a "then and now" photo gallery posted by The Hattiesburg American.
"Carey grateful for blessings amid storm recovery" article published in The Hattiesburg American.
The tornado damage to campus is estimated to be almost $73 million. Below is an update on the construction that has been completed and the schedule for future repairs.
Phase I – repairs – these were all finished this spring
  • Cafeteria, post office/bookstore, library, Lawrence Hall to accommodate administrative offices
  • College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM) academic, administrative, and clinical building. Anatomy lab was completely destroyed.
  • Physical therapy building (Thomas Building)
  • Fairchild and Smith Halls (education buildings)
  • Thomas Fine Arts building (except auditorium)
  • North wing of Green Science building
  • New biology lab
  • Temporary repairs to dorms: Bass Hall, Bryant Hall, Polk Hall, Braswell Hall, Byrd Hall, Futral Hall, Davis Hall
  • Preliminary repairs to athletic fields and tennis courts
  • Ben Waddle Sports Facility (construction completed, this building was not damaged by tornado)
Phase II – to be completed this summer or early fall 2017
  • Permanent repairs to all dorms
  • South wing of Green Science Hall
  • Auditorium
  • Wheeler Alumni House/admissions offices
  • New annex to Clinton Gym
  • Repairs to Clinton Gym
  • Newly constructed “temporary” classroom and office space (will become permanent)
  • All dorms will have new permanent windows, flooring and ceiling tile and newly painted
  • Bass Chapel
  • Anatomy Lab (COM)
  • Sarah Ellen Gillespie Museum
  • Tatum Theatre
Phase III – to be completed summer 2018
  • Complete renovation and restoration of School of Business. New date: October 2017
  • New dorms – Johnson and Ross Halls
  • New addition to Tatum Theater
  • New Asbury Academic Building
  • New Tatum Court
  • Conversion of “temporary” classroom building to permanent academic space
  • Continue to purchase property in the area; this is an ongoing goal