Severe weather in southern regions of the United States spawned several tornadoes over the weekend, causing widespread property damage and killing at least 12 people. The storms affected the southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. The dead included 10 people in rural Mississippi and 2 others in Alabama while at least 70 people were injured. A state of emergency has been declared in 17 Mississippi counties and reports said hundreds of properties have been destroyed or damaged.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), one tornado blew winds estimated at up to 160 mph (260 kmph) as it tracked a total of 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Louisiana to east-central Mississippi. The weather system also spawned at least 20 other tornadoes that hit towns in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee while strong winds downed trees in Georgia. In total, eight states were placed on tornado watch over the weekend. Officials are currently assessing the damage after the storms tore roofs off buildings, reduced homes to rubble, overturned vehicles, downed power lines and toppled trees. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour described the scene in badly hit Yazoo County as “utter obliteration.”
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Reports said the tornadoes in Mississippi damaged nearly 700 homes and businesses, prompting Governor Barbour to declare a state of emergency in 17 counties. Ten people were killed in Mississippi (5 in Choctaw County, four in Yazoo County and one from Holmes County). Power lines were downed and roads were blocked by fallen trees after a tornado estimated to be almost a mile (1.6 kilometers) wide blew through the centre of Mississippi. Seven counties on a 190 mile (305 kilometers) path reported damage ranging from fallen trees and downed power lines to flattened homes and businesses, reports said. Around 320 houses were damaged in Yazoo County alone (population of around 28,000 people), officials said. At least 40 homes were also damaged in Warren County, according to reports. Choctaw was also badly hit, with more than 100 homes damaged after a tornado cut about a 10-mile (16-kilometre) path through the county. Elsewhere, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said nearly 200 homes were damaged in Attala, Holmes, Monroe and Union. An emergency official estimated that the storm left thousands without power and hundreds homeless.
In Alabama, meanwhile, authorities attributed two deaths to the severe weather. Thirty-three people were also injured, many in a mobile home park after a tornado flipped trailers. Power was cut to about 15,000 people before crews began restoring electricity and cleaning up debris. A curfew was ordered in the town of Albertville (Marshall County) after a tornado caused severe damage and disruption. Fire officials said numerous power lines were downed and hail of various sizes was reported across Alabama. The storm also left damage in Lamar County and DeKalb County. An estimated 200 structures were reportedly damaged in the town of Geraldine (DeKalb County). Officials in Jefferson County, meanwhile, said they have received reports of flooding in the Birmingham metro area.
Elsewhere, power outages were reported in Arkansas and Georgia while homes and businesses were damaged in Louisiana and Tennessee.
Sources: BBC News, Agence France Presse, Associated Press, CNN News, New York Times
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