Tornado seen in Sharkey, but no injuries|[03/04/08]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 4, 2008

From staff and AP reports

A storm system passing through Mississippi Monday spawned at least one tornado and is being blamed for severely damaging two homes in Amite County.

A tornado touched down briefly around 4 p.m. in Sharkey County near Holly Bluff and Rolling Fork, but there were few sightings of funnel clouds as high, sustained winds buffeted the state.

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The reports of damage followed days of warnings to most of the state that high winds, thunderstorms and even hail were expected Monday evening and night.

“All in all, considering what the weather service was predicting, we were very lucky,” said Mike Womack, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency executive director.

In Vicksburg, emergency preparations included the closing of the local branch of Hinds Community College.

But when all was done, no injuries or damage were reported here.

Officials at the Sharkey County Sheriff’s Department and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said they, too, received no reports of injury or damage.

“More than likely they did have some tornados come through the area, but because it is so sparsely populated they may have not hit any structures,” Womack said.

He said it is still possible reports of damage in those counties could come in today, but “if there was anything significant, we would have already heard of it.”

High winds are blamed on the damage in Amite County near Liberty, National Weather Service senior meteorologist Mike Edmonston said, but a storm survey team will check the site today to determine if the damage was actually caused by a tornado.

Five other Amite County homes suffered heavy damage, though no injuries were reported.

The advancing storm system spawned tornado warnings across central and south Mississippi and eastern Louisiana. It packed high winds, lightning and heavy rain. Cold weather behind the front prompted snow warnings for some parts of northern Mississippi.

In Vicksburg, .95 inches of rain was reported Monday.

Womack said much of Mississippi was fortunate not to have experienced the strong storm conditions that were forecasted.

“We did get the high winds and lots of rain, but the system seemed to lose intensity as it got later in the evening,” he said.

Flash flood warnings also were issued in parts of north central and south central Mississippi with up to 3 1/2 inches of rain reported in some areas.

The first tornado warnings associated with the system were posted during the afternoon in south Mississippi, but the storms seemed to weaken as they headed toward Alabama late Monday.