Storm smacks state

Published 12:40 am Thursday, December 27, 2012

More than 25 people were injured and at least 70 homes were damaged in Mississippi by the severe storms that pushed across the South on Christmas Day, authorities said Wednesday.

Damages have been reported in 12 counties and officials continue to assess the situation, but there have been no reports of fatalities in Mississippi, Mississippi Emergency Management spokesman Brett Carr said.

Rattled residents endured cold and gusting winds on Wednesday as they looked over the damage.

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Cindy Williams, 56, stood near her damaged house in McNeill and said she’s thankful her family is still alive.

The front of the house was collapsed into a pile of wood and brick. A bedroom porch and balcony were ripped apart. The Christmas tree was blown into the yard. Several large oak trees were uprooted or broken and a nearby grove of trees was sheared off at the treetops.

“We are so thankful. We had built a replica of an antebellum home. My daughter and daughter-in-law and two grand babies had just made it (home) and we were in the house. My husband and son had gone to our shop and they had to ride it out in the truck. They didn’t have a scratch on them. We were in the laundry room. God took care of us.”

The family celebrated Christmas late Tuesday night at a relative’s house.

Carr, the MEMA spokesman, said authorities are still compiling information on the damages, and it’s not clear how many of the 70 damaged homes in Mississippi were completely destroyed.

Carr urged people to avoid downed power lines and to use caution in using alternative sources to heat their homes after the storm brought frigid temperatures.

Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency for eight counties on Christmas Day: Forrest, Greene, Hinds, Jones, Lawrence, Pearl River, Stone and Wilkinson. Damages have since been reported in Amite, George, Perry and Monroe counties.

National Weather Service teams were sent Wednesday to study damage patterns to determine whether some of the destruction was caused by tornados or straight-line winds.

Amanda Harris, deputy director of emergency operation in Pearl River County, said at least six people were taken to hospitals after a suspected tornado hit there, but their injuries were not considered life threatening.

“At least a dozen homes were damaged or destroyed here, probably more, maybe up to 20,” Harris said in telephone interview Wednesday.

The storm spun off dozens of tornados along the Gulf Coast and dumped snow on the on nation’s midsection before pushing toward the Northeast. At least six people were killed in the storms across the country.

Red Cross spokesman Jarrod Ravencraft said the organization is working to clothe, house and feed people in 10 Mississippi counties, but it wasn’t immediately clear how many people had sought shelter and aid.