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US

Mississippians mop up after deadly storm

Storm damage June 6, 1998
Web posted at: 6:29 p.m. EDT (2229 GMT)

HATTIESBURG, Mississippi (CNN) -- Utility crews were working Saturday to restore electricity to parts of southern Mississippi hit overnight by a deadly storm -- possibly a tornado.

Three people were killed and at least 45 people, including four police officers, were injured. The storm, packing 70 mph winds, downed trees and power lines and tore the roofs off buildings in 18 counties near and in the town of Hattiesburg, south of the state's capital of Jackson.

Roughly 48,000 people were without power after the storm hit, and some customers could be without electricity until Monday, Forest County emergency management officer Beth Johnson said. She said officials were "really hopeful" they would be able to restore power to all areas by then.

More than 30 homes were damaged, and Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice declared a state of emergency in those counties.

Terry Steed, director of emergency management for Forest County and Hattiesburg, attributed the severe damage to a tornado, and the National Weather Service said a tornado was probable but could not confirm that one had touched down.

"It was very intense from 10:30 p.m. until midnight, about as rough as it gets," Steed said. Two of the three people who died were killed when trees fell on their vehicles, he said.

"Numerous homes have suffered some level of damage. Most of the damage is trees fallen down on houses," Steed added.

"It was a hell of a storm," a Hattiesburg police dispatcher told CNN.

Steed said officials began tracking the storm system before it hit the Hattiesburg area, where there is no weather-siren warning system.

"We followed it all the way from several counties away. That helped us get warnings out, broadcast warnings and warnings on NORAD radio," Steed said, explaining that may have helped keep the number of injuries down.

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