International desk, April 13: Tornadoes in Mississippi and Louisiana have caused “catastrophic” damage and at least six deaths after touching down Sunday, emergency officials say.So far, officials say hundreds of structures have been damaged by the storms, CNN reports.
Two people are dead in Lawrence County, Mississippi, according to Monticello Fire Chief Lyle Berard, saying there were reports of two tornadoes in the area.
“It’s pretty bad,” he said “We have downed trees and multiple homes with major damage.”
The Mississippi State Emergency Management Agency confirmed the Lawrence County deaths. It said on Twitter that one person had died in Walthall County and there had been three confirmed fatalities in Jefferson Davis County.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency over the storms.
“This is not how anyone wants to celebrate Easter Sunday,” Reeves said in a statement. “The state and our first responders are working around the clock and will not rest until this is over. We are mobilizing all resources available to protect our people and their property.”
In Covington County, Mississippi, every emergency worker available was working Sunday evening to respond to damage from what the National Weather Service described as “a large and destructive tornado,” county Emergency Management Department director Greg Sanford told CNN.
“Where there were houses, they are no longer there,” Sanford said, describing the reports of damage in the tiny community of Mount Horeb.
Sanford says the county have received many calls about people being injured but are not yet sure how serious the injuries are.
There have been an unspecified number of fatalities and “several injuries” in Jones County, Mississippi, due to the storms, according to county Emergency Management Communications Director Ramona Dungan.
Dungan said there was extensive damage around the town of Soso.
Candice Pitts rode out the storm in a small hallway at the Soso Volunteer Fire Station.
“All I had was my arms to put over my son and mother-in-law,” she said. “Was near a solid glass door that blew out and the roof in many places tore off or collapsed. My car was park(ed) under a shed that is now blown over in a yard nearby. It’s mangled.”
Tornado watches issued across the South
As of 9:30 p.m. ET, the weather service has 25 reports of tornadoes across the South on Easter Sunday. More than 95 million people in almost 20 states in the South and East are facing the threat of severe weather on Easter Sunday and Monday, with tornado watches issued across areas of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.
“There was a tornado emergency in effect at the time and this tornado was likely on the ground for nearly 100 miles. The Southeast remains under the threat for more multiple, dangerous and destructive tornadoes into the evening as tornado watches are in effect through midnight and will likely be extended eastward by Monday,” Norman said.
The National Weather Service earlier issued its highest level of tornado alert, a tornado emergency, for parts of Covington and Jefferson Davis counties. The weather service said confidence was high that the area was seeing a “strong to intense” tornado with winds of 115-165 mph.
The mayor of Monroe, a city in north-central Louisiana of about 50,000 people, says hundreds of structures in his community were damaged by a Sunday afternoon twister.
“At least 200-300 houses have been damaged here in the city of Monroe alone,” Mayor Jamie Mayo said. “We also have had damage throughout Ouachita Parish.”
Mayo said there had not been any fatalities reported from the storm, but emergency workers were responding to “minor injuries.” Fire crews were also searching damaged buildings to ensure no one was trapped.
Alfonzo Galvan, a journalism student, recorded video of one Monroe neighborhood with debris in the street and several homes with significant damage. He told CNN his family was safe and didn’t receive any damage. He lives about 1.5 miles away from the area in the video.
“I got there after the tornado went through the area, but it was just a bunch of people surveying the damage to their homes and looking for their friends and loved ones making sure they were OK,” Galvan said.