The Latest: Mississippi tornado wrecks businesses, shops

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The Latest on severe weather in the South (all times local):

8:10 p.m.

Bystanders say a tornado has destroyed or heavily damaged some businesses in a commercial district in Columbus, Mississippi, toppling trees and blacking out power in the area.

Lee Lawrence, who has been selling used cars for decades in the city, says four buildings on his car sales lot have been destroyed, trees have fallen across vehicles and the windows of many cars were shattered when the tornado roared through Saturday afternoon.

Speaking by phone, Lawrence tells The Associated Press he will rebuild.

“It will be a start-over deal,” says Lawrence, who wasn’t present when the tornado struck. “I can’t say it will come back better or stronger, but we’ll come back.”

A photographer for The AP says he also saw antique collector cars at Lawrence’s lot crushed by debris and a nearby pet grooming business destroyed amid twisted piles of metal. A printing shop had a pipe spearing what’s left of the building and a vacant commercial building also appeared heavily damaged.

There were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries. Emergency officials have cordoned off the area.


6 p.m.

Authorities say a tornado has touched down in the city of Columbus, Mississippi.

Meteorologist Anna Wolverton with the National Weather Service told The Associated Press that a tornado hit about 5 p.m. CST Saturday and was confirmed on radar.

There were no immediate reports of any injuries.

Wolverton says she received a report that an emergency operations center in Columbus was hit by the storm and that there were power outages. She says she doesn’t know how long the tornado was on the ground, the path it took, or the storm’s intensity.

Speaking from the weather service office in Jackson, Mississippi, she added that a team of experts would be heading to Columbus on Sunday to determine the storm’s size and strength.

Columbus is a city of more than 23,000 people in east Mississippi.

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center said there were reports of large hail and an apparent brief tornado in Alcorn, Mississippi, as severe storms swept the region.


4 p.m.

Homes, highways, parks and bridges throughout the South have been flooded or put out of commission as days of rains have drench a wide area amid severe storms crossing the region.

Interstate 40 near the Tennessee line with North Carolina was closed by a rockslide, one of the dozens of roads and highways shut down throughout the South region, transportation officials said.

Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Nagi said on Twitter that a “full scale detour” was in place, with traffic being diverted to Interstate 81 and Interstate 26.

In Bruce, Mississippi, rivers broke flood stage and flash floods poured into homes and businesses. News outlets report that a local state of emergency was declared by officials in Grenada, Mississippi, after dozens of streets and homes flooded. A six-mile (nine-kilometer) stretch of the Natchez Trace Parkway was closed in Mississippi after water covered part of the road.