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Leon Harris: Weather still threatens tornado-hit area

CNN's Leon Harris
CNN's Leon Harris

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JACKSON, Tennessee (CNN) -- Strong overnight rains and the threat of more tornadoes hampered recovery efforts in several southeastern areas hit hard by Sunday's deadly twisters.

CNN's Leon Harris spent Tuesday morning in Jackson, Tennessee, where 11 people died. He talked to anchor Heidi Collins about the situation in the town.

HARRIS: The weather has been wreaking havoc with our equipment, but more importantly with people's lives here in Jackson, Tennessee. And this rain that's been coming down all night is just adding insult to injury [since] this town has already suffered with these tornadoes that barreled their way through here.

There is extensive damage through what used to be the center of downtown Jackson. This is pretty much the way this entire two- or three-square block area looks like.

Much of life around here is going to be at a standstill for some time to come.

The rain is expected to keep falling here for at least the next two to three days, according to local reports. There's already a number of reports I've heard of extensive flooding in the region. More flash flood watches will be in effect for some time to come. As a matter of fact, we're in the middle of a tornado watch, which will be in effect for at least another 45 to 50 minutes or so. And I've got to tell you, there's been pretty ugly-looking clouds rolling through here.

That may complicate matters for officials who plan on coming in here and taking an aerial tour. From what we hear, Gov. Phil Bredesen and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, as well as the mayor, plan on coming through here and taking a tour of the area to get an assessment by helicopter. I don't know if they'll be able to do that today. The FEMA director's going to be traveling with them.

In the last reports that we've gotten, as many as 1,600 structures across this area are either totally wiped out or damaged in some way. The death toll right now is standing at 14 for the state -- seven on one road alone here in Madison County.

Today was supposed to be election day for Jackson, Tennessee, for the mayor. That's not going to happen.

COLLINS: Are people out now? Are you able to talk to them? What are they doing?

HARRIS: The people around us right now basically are all the media. We did see a number of people walking around this area last evening before the rains came in and hit hard. Many of them were walking around pretty much in stunned silence. A lot of them were looking at what used to be a computer company here, a couple of shops.

But the amazing thing is when you see things like this, you see the vagaries of what happens in a tornado. You see all of this destruction. Well, right next to us ... is the memorial that was set up to remember those who died in the tornadoes that struck this area back in 1998. Six people died then. [There is] no damage whatsoever in that spot, and that's maybe 20 feet away.

It's amazing what you can see at ground zero, if you will, of these tornadoes.

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