At least 4 dead from severe weather and possible tornados that slam Mississippi

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JACKSON, Mississippi — At least four people are dead after a possible tornado Tuesday ripped through two southeast counties in the state.

Gov. Phil Bryant also issued a state of emergency for Jones and Marion counties, along with other parts of the state.

"I have declared a state of emergency to assist local officials with any available state resources that are needed in areas affected by severe weather, specifically in Jones and Marion counties," Bryant said in a statement. "The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service are continuing to monitor the situation in the region."

Jones County Emergency Management director Marda Tullos said two were killed Tuesday in Laurel. She said the man and woman were inside a mobile home that was in the storm's path.

Marion County coroner Norma Williamson tells WDAM (http://bit.ly/1sVQzxY) that two people died from the tornado in Columbia. One was in Wilks Trailer Park and the other in a strip mall. She said the Marion County hospital emergency room is dealing with many patients.

Marion General Hospital spokeswoman Millie Swann said the facility had treated about 50 patients since the severe weather swept through the area.

"The whole town of Columbia is without power," Swann said. "The hospital is running on generator (power), but was able to treat people in the ER unless they needed a higher level of care. We had to transfer about eight patients who needed that higher level to Forrest General in Hattiesburg."

Swann said the hospital's emergency room has since quieted. "The ER is pretty much back to a regular pace," she said. "We're not sure what will happen Wednesday, but we're preparing.

"Any time there's an event like this things get hectic, but health care people are used to working under pressure."

Mississippi Highway Patrol Lt. Johnny Poulos said police have shut down the three highways that lead into Columbia because of downed trees and other debris and to allow easier access for first responders. It was not known when the roads would reopen.

Earlier Tuesday, golf ball-sized hail fell in Enterprise, along with some pea-sized hail in the Bude area. There were also reports of hail in McComb, Liberty and Woodville.

Emergency officials said some trees were down in Lincoln County. There were also power outages reported in Marion and Jones counties.

National Weather Service meteorologist Latrice Maxie said a survey team will be dispatched Wednesday to determine whether a tornado was responsible for the reported damage that include roofs torn off homes and businesses and collapsed walls, she said.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is warning of flooding in low-lying areas.

Rain and thunder is expected to continue overnight, exiting early Christmas Eve morning.

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