State Of Mississippi Hit By Tornado Traveling Across State

A tornado almost a mile wide tore through Mississippi on Saturday, raking cities from the central western border with Louisiana northeastward to Alabama, and causing significant injuries, a spokesman for the governor said.

"They're working to get to the people and rescue as many as they can," said Dan Turner, spokesman for Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. "What we have right now that we know of is damage in at least four counties with injuries -- significant injuries in three of the four and one possible death reported in Yazoo City."

Turner said the state's emergency management officials had set up a command post near U.S. 49 in Yazoo City, where he said the tornado had caused "extensive damage."

The state has activated a 25-person rapid response team from Hattiesburg that is capable of search and rescue operations, Turner said.
Mississippi residents reported that the path of the twister was a half-mile to a mile wide, said Mark McAllister, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Jackson.

CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras said the tornado had traveled 150 miles across Mississippi, starting in the western part of the state and moving northeast before weakening as it moved into Alabama.

In Yazoo City, Fire Chief Roy Wilson said that between 20 to 30 houses were destroyed, and said some people were trapped inside structures. Wilson said he didn't yet have confirmed numbers on injuries.

"It's in pretty bad shape so far," he said of the city.
In Eagle Lake, near the Louisiana border, about 30 homes were destroyed, Turner said.
Linda Green, a dispatcher with the Issaquena County Sheriff's Department, told CNN that there was minimal damage in the area around Valley Park, and a few power lines were down.

No injuries have been reported in Valley Park after the twister ripped through around 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. ET), she added.

Valley Park is in Issaquena County, while Yazoo City is located in Yazoo County. Issaquena County is in the western part of the state, north of Vicksburg.
The entire state is under a tornado watch until 8 p.m. (9 p.m. ET), according to the National Weather Service.

The storm system struck Louisiana before it moved into Mississippi. A Tallulah, Louisiana, police dispatcher said a chemical plant in the city had been damaged, but could not give further details.

Turner said that emergency response teams had been slowed by people out surveying the effects of the storm.

"One of the biggest obstacles is, of course, people are curious and want to get out and see the damage," he said. "We've urged people to stay away from those areas, not only because it slows down the emergency response, but there are also still live electrical wires, there are open gas lines that will have to be shut down."

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