At least 17 injured by tornado in Magee, areas destroyed

MAGEE, MISS (AP) - Severe weather across the South unleashed tornadoes in rural Mississippi early today, including one that shattered dozens of homes, flattened a church and injured at least 17 people in Magee.

Mayor Jimmy Clyde said there were no immediate reports of fatalities. The most seriously injured were hospitalized, but most others had minor injuries.

The twister was reported around 1:30 a.m., and swept through Mississippi's pine-covered hill country as severe thunderstorms rumbled across several Southeast states. Power blackouts affected tens of thousands of Louisiana residents, and authorities reported damage to some Alabama homes. Georgia residents also braced for potentially heavy rains.

Clyde said authorities are attempting to restore power after utility lines toppled on roads littered with tree branches and metal scrap. Magee's 16-member police force fanned out before dawn and kept up the work after daylight. He said homes in some areas were "basically leveled" and there was extensive damage just outside the city limits.

Heavy fog hampered rescue teams as they tried to determine the extent of the damage. Thunderstorms rumbled across several Southeast states on Thursday, causing power outages, downing trees and producing scattered flooding.

Downed power lines and scraps of metal and downed tree limbs littered roads and highways leading into Magee.

Other reports of downed trees, power lines and damaged homes came in across the Deep South, caused by a band of heavy thunderstorms and high winds. In Louisiana, storms knocked out electricity to about 40,000 customers.

A tornado also destroyed a business and damaged several Lauderdale County homes in east Mississippi.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency says one business was completely destroyed and two homes received major damage when a powerful storm swept across Mississippi Wednesday, packing high winds and heavy rains.

MEMA officials also say nine homes and one business received minor damage, though there were no injuries. Emergency crews are still assessing the damage.

Ashley Wester, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Jackson, said the tornado hit around 11 a.m. with winds of 90 to 95 mph. No other twisters have been spotted, but a system that has stalled out along a line from central Louisiana to east Mississippi is expected to bring more severe weather.

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