Injuries, widespread damage reported from tornado

Published 2:57 pm Friday, April 15, 2011

JACKSON (AP) — A line of severe storms spawned a tornado Friday morning in Clinton, and authorities reported extensive damage and multiple injuries.

A dispatcher for the Clinton Police Department said the tornado touched down around 11 a.m. CDT. She said damage was widespread. She did not have precise figures on the number of people injured or the extent of their injuries.

The National Weather Service could not be reached for confirmation of the tornado but Clinton police said it was still on the ground at 11:15.

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The line of storms was moving east in central Mississippi and tornado warnings were sounded in Jackson, about 10 miles from Clinton.

Phillip Gregory, 23, was at a bank not far from his home when the weather began to worsen on Friday morning.

Gregory, a restaurant cook who worked in the cleanup on the Mississippi Coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said he got home about the time the tornado was forming in his neighborhood off U.S. Highway 80 in Clinton.

He said he dashed into the house, gathered up his 72-year-old grandmother, Dean Gregory, and got them both into a bathtub. They held a mattress over them for protection as the twister hit.

“You could just feel the house fall down. The whole back side of the house is gone,” he said afterward.

“All you could see was this black cloud,” he said, referring to the tornado as it passed.

Neither he nor his grandmother was hurt, but the roof was torn off their house and trees and fences were flattened. Homes up and down the street in the neighborhood showed a variety of damage.

At Fads and Frames, one of several businesses along a stretch of highway not far from the Gregory home, Claude Clark saw the twister approach.

Clark, 66, a retired Hinds County constable who now manages the green house for the business, said he was standing outside in the lawn section when he saw the tornado near.

“Stuff started coming up in the air and I said ‘Let’s get inside.’ We got about half way in and then we had to hit the floor. Pieces of the roof and glasss were flying through the store,” he said.

About a dozen people were in the store when the tornado swept through the area. No one there was hurt.

Heavy rain and hail were reported elsewhere in the state as the spring storm system pushed east.

There were reports of damage to a few mobile homes and other structures early Friday. The same line of storms had already killed two people in Oklahoma and at least four in Arkansas.

Leflore County Emergency Management director T.W. Cooper said at least two mobile homes and a storage shed were damaged or destroyed near Minter City. A significant number of trees were down in the area.

Daniel Lamb, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, said the roof was blown off another mobile home in Issaquena County. The weather damaged a shop near the border of Washington and Bolivar counties.

A tornado watch was expected to remain in effect for a large portion of the state into Friday afternoon.

“It looks like it’s going to be a volatile set up,” said Brian Koeneke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson. “We could have a few tornados and there’s the possibility for a strong tornado.”