Barbour declares state of emergency following Thursday storm

Published 8:06 am Saturday, January 12, 2008

JACKSON (AP) — A state of emergency for the residents in counties, including Attala, Choctaw, Holmes and Lowndes, affected by Thursday’s severe weather, the governor’s office announced Friday.

“This will ensure the residents of these counties will receive the assistance they need,” Gov. Haley Barbour said in a statement.

In addition to widespread property damage, the weather also is being blamed for at least two traffic fatalities.

Email newsletter signup

A Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman said the vehicles involved in both crashes may have hydroplaned during downpours, though investigations are continuing.

To the north, about 100 houses were damaged and destroyed and 11 people were injured in Lowndes County. Two were hospitalized with injuries that didn’t appear to be life threatening.

Cindy Lawrence, the Columbus-Lowndes County emergency management director, said children were placed in a hall at the K-12 school in Caledonia when high winds tossed a bus on top of the gym and also destroyed the vocational building and several cars in the parking lot.

Two students were injured, Lowndes County Superintendent Mike Halford said.

“If we had ignored the warning and not brought those students into the hallways, there would have been students in those buildings,” Halford said. “If it wasn’t for the faculty and students following our emergency plan, it could have been a lot worse.”

“Best way to sum it up is an awful lot destruction and no deaths,” said Caledonia Mayor Bill Lawrence said Friday as he surveyed the aftermath of a tornado that ripped through the Lowndes County town of 1,015.

The preliminary estimate in Lowndes County is 25 houses were destroyed, 22 suffered major damage and 59 had minor damage, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. Also, one business was destroyed, two had major damage and two had minor damage, MEMA reported.

In all 11 people were injured — three serious enough to go to the hospital but none with life-threatening injuries.

In Lamar County on Thursday, a motorist died after colliding with a Lamar County deputy head-on at the height of the storm, said Highway Patrol Sgt. James Snyder said.

David Silers, 43, of New Hebron died at the scene, Snyder said.

The second fatal accident occurred on Interstate 59 in Jones County. The passenger of an F-250 was killed when the pickup hydroplaned and slid off the road, Snyder said. The name of the victim was being withheld pending notification of relative.

Attala County Emergency Management Deputy Director Dwain Steed said a tornado touched down at least three times in the county.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Chad Entremont said experts were sent out Friday to confirm each tornado report.