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Tornado-laden storms hit Mississippi

High winds leave a trail of destruction; emergency declared

A trailer that served as a classroom is a shambles in Mize, Mississippi.
National Weather Service

(CNN) -- Severe storms that included tornadoes overturned mobile homes, downed trees and toppled power lines Wednesday across Mississippi.

Damage was so extensive that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour declared a state of emergency.

Jim Butch, warning coordination meteorologist for the weather service in Jackson, the state capital, described the storm system as a "super cell" capable of producing multiple tornadoes.

The National Weather Service had 19 tornado reports in the state between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. CT, but Butch said some of the reports may have been the same tornado on a continuous track through the area.

"Right now we are focusing on taking care of the basic needs of those affected -- giving folks a place to stay and food to eat," said Robert Latham, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency director.

Agency spokeswoman Lea Stokes said the county hardest hit initially was Rankin, east of Jackson in the south-central part of the state, where quarter-size hail was reported.

Seven people were injured and between 20 and 25 homes destroyed, officials said.

First responders were on the scene to assess damage, check on power outages and look for injured people, Stokes said.

In Brandon, the Rankin County seat, Mayor Roe Grubbs said his community saw some damage and "some people were shaken up a little bit, but everybody's OK."

He credited the emergency response improvements made after a tornado killed 10 people there in 1992.

"The city of Brandon has been designated a storm-ready community by the National Weather Service," he said. "This morning we were able to give everybody about 20 minutes [warning]."

Even a mobile home that was completely flipped over registered "no injuries whatsoever," Grubbs said.

At one point Wednesday, tornado watches were posted in seven states.

As of 6:45 p.m. CT, watches were in effect for western and central Alabama and eastern and central Mississippi through 1 a.m. CT Thursday.

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