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CNN Today

Nine Dead After Violent Storms Ravage Mississippi and Arkansas

Aired February 26, 2001 - 1:26 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: At least nine people are dead after violent weekend storms that swept through Mississippi and Arkansas. Parts of Mississippi have been declared state disaster areas. Hardest hit is Pontotoc, in northern Mississippi, where five people in one neighborhood were killed by a tornado.

Tim Vetscher of CNN affiliate WHVQ joins us now from Pontotoc, where folks are still in a state of shock.

TIM VETSCHER, CNN AFFILIATE CORRESPONDENT: The cleanup has begun here in Pontotoc this afternoon. But, as you can see behind me by all this devastation, it's going to take months, perhaps even years before this area looks anything like it did before the storms hit. This is pretty much ground zero in terms of damage. The debris field just south of town about a half mile wide, and today family members are beginning the daunting task of trying to pick up the pieces.

Again, the area hardest hit is south of downtown Pontotoc along 10th Street. It's here where five people were killed Saturday night. Relatives, friends, even perfect strangers have been sifting through this debris all morning long. But knowing they can never replace what is already gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just such a numbing feeling. You just keep thinking you're going to wake up and when you walk up the hill, the same houses that have been here all your life will still be here. And you walk up and it's just empty. And many of the people aren't coming back. Of course houses can be rebuilt, but it will never be the same.

VETSCHER: Now, the severity of the damage has local authorities labeling this as an F-3 tornado, winds likely in excess of 150 miles per hour. Mississippi governor, Ronnie Musgrove, has applied for federal aid. And meantime, funeral arrangements -- funeral services for four of the victims have been set for tomorrow.

Live in Pontotoc, Mississippi, I'm Tim Vetcher. Lou, back to you.

WATERS: OK, Tim. Now over to Natalie.

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