Thu, Dec 25, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Bad weather hits southern US; more storms forecast

AP, JACKSON, Mississippi

Severe weather slammed the southern US two days before Christmas, killing at least four people and knocking out power to thousands.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant declared an emergency for two southeastern counties where officials said four people died in the storms and several more were injured. His office said that thousands were without power on Tuesday night around Columbia, which is about 135km southeast of Mississippi’s capital, Jackson.

Jones County, Mississippi, Emergency Management director Marda Tullos said a man and woman were killed inside a mobile home in the storm’s path in Laurel.

About 80km southwest, Marion County Coroner Norma Williamson told a local news station that two people were killed in Columbia. One person was in a trailer park, another at a strip mall.

Marion General Hospital had treated about 50 patients since the severe weather swept through, spokeswoman Millie Swann said.

“The whole town of Columbia is without power,” Swann said. “The hospital is running on generator [power], but was able to treat people in the [emergency room] unless they needed a higher level of care.”

Eight patients were transferred to a hospital in nearby Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Photos tweeted by several local media outlets and the US National Weather Service in Jackson showed damage to a drug store, car dealership, daycare and a strip mall.

Meteorologist Latrice Maxie said significant damage has been reported to homes and businesses in the city of about 6,500 people.

A survey team was be sent yesterday to determine whether a tornado was responsible, she said.

Storm spotters said it was.

“It’s chaos over here,” Williamson said. “ All the lines are down.”

Marion County Emergency Management Director Aaron Greer told the Hattiesburg American newspaper that some people were still trapped inside their homes. Television footage showed cars, including an ambulance, flipped over and a few businesses wrecked.

Watches and warnings were out for a section of Alabama and Georgia, with the storms moving toward Atlanta and south into Florida late on Tuesday into yesterday.

Earlier on Tuesday, according to local news reports, a tornado touched down in Amite, Louisiana, downing several power lines and trees, and tearing the roof off at least one home.

Flooding also was forecast in several areas because of several centimeters of rain piling up.

Already in Tallahassee, Florida, the weather service tweeted that travel was strongly discouraged and that several water rescues were in progress. At least 15cm of rain had hit the area in a short time, reports said.

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