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Severe weather sweeps across Southeast

  • Story Highlights
  • Officials report extensive damage in one area of Jackson, Mississippi
  • The National Weather Service reports wind gusts of 60 mph in the city
  • The storm knocks down power lines throughout the area
  • At least one tornado roared through central Arkansas on Thursday evening
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(CNN) -- Strong winds and possible tornadoes roared across southern Mississippi on Friday, shredding roofs and slamming trees and power poles into homes and businesses.

At least one minor injury was reported in Vicksburg, Mississippi, when winds from a possible tornado knocked a 4-foot-diameter oak tree onto a mobile home, the National Weather Service said.

Other reports of tornadoes came from Richland, Madison and Lakeland, all suburbs of Jackson, Mississippi.

The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of 60 mph in downtown Jackson.

There was extensive damage in one area of the city, where uprooted trees smashed into several homes and businesses, Assistant Police Chief Lee Vance said.

The storm knocked down power lines throughout the area, he said, adding that there were no initial reports of injuries or deaths.

Tornado watches were in effect from central Louisiana through southern Mississippi and central Alabama until 6 p.m. and into north Georgia and the northeastern tip of South Carolina until 10 p.m.

Powerful thunderstorms toppled trees and knocked out power throughout the town of Cullman, in northern Alabama, on Friday, The Associated Press reported.

"It came up on us so quickly. Everything happened at once," Leanne Collins said.

At least one tornado swept through central Arkansas on Thursday evening, savaging a mobile home park and sending National Weather Service forecasters into a bunker as the storm roared overhead.

"There's pretty extensive damage in the Little Rock area," said John Lewis, a senior forecaster with the weather service at the North Little Rock Airport.

At least four people were hurt, authorities said, but there were no reports of fatalities.

The storm destroyed hangars at the North Little Rock Airport and tossed numerous small planes.

"The scariest moment of my life," said Mike Aubrey, who was at the airport securing his plane ahead of the storm. "Debris was flying across the ramp. Planes were beginning to stack up."

Aubrey said he saw a Douglas DC-3, an early passenger plane, spin around. The aircraft was nowhere to be found after the tornado passed, he said.

The damage extended from southwest of Little Rock to the northeast.

"There's some structural damage in the city of Little Rock and several areas north of North Little Rock," said John Rehrauer, spokesman for the Pulaski County sheriff's department. "A lot of trees and power lines are down."

The same storm caused damage in Saline County, Lewis said, pummeling the Hurricane Lake Mobile Home Park in the town of Benton, Arkansas, about 12 miles southwest of Little Rock.

More than 50 mobile homes caught fire, according to CNN affiliate KARK-TV.

One witness told the station that he escaped with his fiancée and two children after he saw the storm moving toward them.

"It's scary, it's like a war zone," he told KARK-TV as a large fire burned behind them. "There's like five or six trailers topped up on top of each other. It's a mess, it's terrible."

There were reports of damage to the Hurricane Meadows subdivision in Benton, with another 20 homes damaged in the western part of Saline County, county spokesman Gary Hunnicutt said.

A few miles northeast of Benton, the dashboard camera of a Bryant Police Department patrol car recorded an apparent tornado slashing through the parking lot of a car dealership. The swirling winds snapped a wooden power pole as sparks and debris filled the air. Video Watch the dashboard camera footage »

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The weather service tracked severe storms across central Arkansas into early Friday morning. Heavy rains prompted flash flood warnings in about 20 counties.

Several swift-water rescues were reported across the state as people became trapped in their vehicles, Arkansas Emergency Management Department spokeswoman Renee Preslar said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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