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USM fixing 'front porch' after tornado; plants huge oak trees

HATTIESBURG — Three months after an F-4 tornado tore through the front part of campus, the University of Southern Mississippi has taken a huge step in restoring the damaged landscape.

Yesterday, five mature oak trees were planted to kickoff the first phase of a Campus Beautification Plan. The live oaks, measuring 40-feet high by 40-feet wide, were supplied by Florida-based grower, The Magnolia Company. These trees are root-pruned and grown specifically for transplantation. Each one is between 25-30 years old.

The tornado that struck the Hattiesburg area on Feb. 10 destroyed approximately 75 trees on the Southern Miss campus. Among the trees destroyed were four legacy oaks estimated to be at least 90 years old.

“After we realized how much damage had been done to the landscape, we immediately began formulating a plan to restore the beauty that everybody associated with this campus,” said Loren Erickson, superintendent of landscape at Southern Miss. “Replacing the giant oaks that were lost with these new trees is a great start to what we believe will be an even better ‘front porch’ for students, faculty, staff and visitors.”

Last month the University launched a $3 million Campus Beautification Plan aimed at restoring the campus’ “front porch.” Thus far the campaign has raised $170,000, which includes a $100,000 contribution from the Southern Miss Alumni Association.

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