At least two tornadoes hit Mississippi

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 6, 2008

JACKSON (AP) — At least two tornadoes hit north Mississippi on Tuesday, tearing through buildings and homes and ripping down powerlines as violent storms pummeled parts of the South, authorities said.

At least three people died in another tornado in neighboring Arkansas and injuries were blamed on twisters in Tennessee and Mississippi, officials said.

Eleven people ranging in age from infants to senior citizens were treated at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford after being injured by a tornado, said Peyton Warrington, the facility’s assistant administrator.

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She said three of the patients were released Tuesday night and the others were in stable condition.

The tornado formed over Panola and Lafayette counties and hit near an industrial complex outside of the city of Oxford, the National Weather Service said.

Witnesses said at least one metal building in Oxford was flattened and others were damaged. Several homes and a church were also destroyed, officials said.

The National Weather Service said it had received reports of injuries in other areas in Mississippi, but the number and extent of those injuries was not immediately available.

Desoto County Sheriff’s Department Cmdr. Steve Atkinson said a twister shredded warehouses in an industrial park in the city of Southaven. He said he was not aware of any injuries there.

‘‘It ripped the warehouses apart. The best way to describe it is it looks like a bomb went off,’’ Atkinson said. ‘‘A lot of fire departments are here and we’re searching each warehouse to see if there was anybody in there. It’s going to be a time consuming thing and we’ll probably be searching into the morning.’’

Southaven High School was also damaged, the National Weather Service said.

The tornado that hit Southaven in Desoto County was the same one that struck near Memphis, Tenn., just north of the state line, said Latrice Maxie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson.

Authorities in Tennessee confirmed that a tornado touched down about 25 miles northeast of downtown Memphis, damaging a shopping mall and injuring some people.

Richard Okulski with the weather service in Memphis, Tenn., reported at least six tornadoes touched down between Oxford, Miss., and Jackson, Tenn.

What officials called an unconfirmed tornado in Bolivar County in Mississippi ripped the roof off a mobile home and blew over a gas pump, Maxie said. There were also reports of hail and strong gusts in several north Mississippi counties.

Calls to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency went unanswered Tuesday night.

Tornado watches were posted for much of Mississippi on Tuesday as record warm temperatures and an approaching frontal system combined to churn out powerful storms.