Tornadoes, severe storms swat Southeast; 7 hurt

Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — At least four tornadoes were part of the storm system that raked northern and central Mississippi on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, injuring at least seven people, the National Weather Service said.

The biggest of the four storms was a twister that traveled 16 miles through several counties east of Jackson. With a half-mile-wide damage path, it was rated EF-3 on the Fujita scale, with peak winds estimated at 140 mph, the weather service said. That storm blew down trees as well as three electrical transmission towers.

Another tornado in Mississippi that injured three people was rated an EF-2, running seven miles with a quarter-mile-wide debris path before lifting off, the weather service said. It had top estimated winds of 125 mph.

The tornadoes accompanied a line of severe storms that swept across the Southeast overnight Wednesday and early Thursday, downing power lines and trees and damaging homes around the region.

In Mississippi, a woman was trapped temporarily in her bed when a tree came crashing through her roof. Rescuers had to cut the tree to get her out, said Scott County Emergency Management Director Alvin Seaney.

In Sharkey County, Miss., Coleman Jenkins, 20, spent Thursday morning looking for his mother's telephone and car keys around her destroyed mobile home. He said his mother broke her back and wrist and had cuts on her face, but she's expected to survive. Jenkins wasn't home at the time, but he said his two sisters, ages 5 and 10, managed to make it out of the trailer without serious injuries.

"Everything's gone," Jenkins said. "I've never seen anything like it."

Sharkey County Emergency Management Director James Ross said a total of eight mobile homes in the county were destroyed or heavily damaged. He said officials are trying to help those families find a place to stay.

At one point Wednesday night, Entergy Mississippi reported more than 11,000 customers without power. Late Thursday, more than 4,000 Entergy customers remained without power, almost all in Greenville.

Nearly 900 customers lost electricity in Arkansas, where some buildings were damaged but no injuries were reported. Storms also raked western Tennessee, toppling trees in a mobile home park north of Memphis and forcing some residents out of their homes.

In Louisiana, authorities reported trees down in at least two parishes and one home with a damaged roof when part of the front swept through that state.

Radar weather maps overnight showed a huge, arcing front that swept across Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and parts of states such as Louisiana and Alabama on its march eastward on a jagged slant.

___ Associated Press writers Jeff Amy and Holbrook Mohr contributed to this report.

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