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Gov. declares state of emergency over damages caused by Friday’s storms

Gov. Haley Barbour declared a state of emergency Monday for 12 counties that were hit hard when severe weather and tornadoes ripped across parts of the state.

The National Weather Service confirmed that five tornadoes hit central Mississippi on Friday. No one was killed, but at least 22 people were injured.

Entergy Mississippi officials say 19,000 people remained without electricity Monday and it could be Wednesday before power is restored to everyone.

“The amount of damage caused by the tornadoes and severe weather is devastating and widespread,” Barbour said in a news release after touring hard hit areas of Jackson, where an estimated 16,000 people remained without power on Monday.

Some state officials said they are concerned people are trying to take advantage of storm victims. State Sen. Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, said his adult son was approached by a man who offered to cut and remove a large limb from a yard for $650. Frazier’s son said no.

Entergy spokesman Checky Herrington said power should be restored to most customers by late Tuesday but in harder hit areas, it could be Wednesday.

“Damage is much more extensive than we originally thought,” he said.

Entergy brought in crews from Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. Herrington said private contractors and workers from another utility company from Alabama also were working in central Mississippi.

Barbour said issuing the state of emergency provides “a relief measure at the state level which helps ensure affected residents have necessary supplies available to them, and that emergency responders will have the authority to provide these services to storm victims in an expedient manner.”

The storm system hit the Jackson area at lunchtime. It uprooted massive oak trees and snapped pines.

In hard-hit northeast Jackson, the buzz of chain saws could still be heard in many neighborhoods Monday.

Drivers were forced to take detours as several streets remained blocked. At some intersections, traffic signals were still out.

The most powerful was an EF2 that began in extreme southern Madison County and thrashed through northeast Jackson before ending in northwest Rankin County. The tornado that hit Jackson carried winds up to 115 mph. It was an EF1 by the time it reached Rankin County.

Hinds Emergency Operations Center Director Larry Fisher estimated the 6,000 to 7,000 houses were damaged, at a cost of $7.5 million.