Severe weather slams southern US; 4 killed

Jackson (US), Dec 24: Severe weather slammed the southern US two days before Christmas killing at least four people and knocking out power to thousands.

In Mississippi, Gov 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 thousands were without power last night around Columbia, which is about 130 kilometres southeast of Jackson.

US winter

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

About 80 kilometres southwest, Marion County coroner Norma Williamson told WDAM that two people were killed in Columbia. One person was in a trailer park, another at a strip mall.

She said the Marion County hospital emergency room in Columbia was dealing with many patients. Photos tweeted by from several local media and the National Weather Service in Jackson showed damage to a drug store, car dealership, day care and the 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 will be sent today 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. Calls from The Associated Press to Greer weren't immediately returned last night.

Watches and warnings were out for a swath of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama with the storms moving toward Georgia, including Atlanta, and Florida late yesterday into Christmas Eve.

According to local media reports, a tornado touched down in Amite, Louisiana, downing several power lines and trees and tearing the roof off at least one home.

Already in Tallahassee, Florida, the weather service tweeted that travel was strongly discouraged and that several water rescues were in progress. At least 6 inches of rain had hit the area in a short time.


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