(Adds damage assessment, injuries, information on tornado's
By Emily Le Coz
TUPELO, Miss. Feb 11 Authorities were cleaning
up and assessing the damage on Monday after a number of
tornadoes and severe weather tore through nine Mississippi
counties, injuring dozens of people as homes and other buildings
were torn apart.
Governor Phil Bryant said at least 63 people were injured
and about 200 homes damaged or destroyed by the twisters, which
cut a 75-mile path of destruction across the south-central
portion of the state.
There were no reported deaths, but two people were
critically injured when a tornado, believed to be at least a
mile wide touched down in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, shortly
before sunset on Sunday.
Preliminary data from the National Weather Service said the
Hattiesburg tornado was an EF-3, packing destructive winds of up
to 145 miles per hour.
Severely damaged buildings included the modern, multi-story
Westminster Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, which flattened
a pickup truck when debris flew off the building, and
parts of the University of Southern Mississippi, Emergency
Management spokesman Greg Flynn said.
He said most students at the university were off campus for
the Mardi Gras holiday when the twister damaged several
buildings there, including a performing arts center and an
Bryant declared a state of emergency in counties hit by the
severe weather and power outages continued across a widespread
area as a steady rain fell on Monday.
"The bad thing is, it keeps raining," said Flynn. "It's
supposed to rain all day today and then all day tomorrow.
"We've already had flash-flooding issues and the creeks and
the streams are all overtopped. It's just going to make things a
lot more difficult in the recovery process."
(Writing by Tom Brown; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Andre