NEW: Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant declares a state of emergency in four counties
At least a dozen people are injured; no deaths are reported
"Within seconds, everything changed," says a Hattiesburg, Mississippi resident
Emergency officials in seven Mississippi counties were dealing Monday with widespread damage after a swarm of storms swept through the area Sunday evening, injuring scores of people.
So far, no one has been reported killed, which authorities hope will remain true.
“We’re really blessed because we don’t have a fatality that we know of right now, and no major injuries. But we have a number of major damages to our structures around town,” said Johnny DuPree, mayor of Hattiesburg, where the tornado hit.
“If there is a good thing about this, it happened on a Sunday when most of these structures were vacant,” he said.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency for the affected counties. The declaration means state resources and assets can be used to support local response efforts. Some 63 people were treated at area hospitals, most of them for minor injuries, he said.
In Hattiesburg, the University of Southern Mississippi suffered damage to several buildings, but there were no reports of injuries there. The campus was already closed because of Mardi Gras and was to remain closed through Tuesday; classes were canceled through Wednesday.
Nearby Oak Grove High School also suffered damage. Randy Wright posted photographs to his Twitter account, showing debris strewn on what appeared to be a parking lot and a truck upside down in a baseball diamond.
The Hattiesburg Public School District canceled classes Monday.
“There’s quite a few homes without power at this point,” Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee said. “Quite a few trees on houses, on cars, that type of thing.”
Ten to 15 people were hospitalized, but none suffered serious injuries, he said.
It was not clear how those people were hurt.
Sarah Lawrence, a Hattiesburg resident, said the storm sounded like “stuff being thrown.”
“Within seconds, everything changed,” she said. “I didn’t feel like there was much notice. I heard the sirens and everything looked OK outside, so I started making preparations to go into the bathroom. And then, next thing I know, all the lights went out, and it got dark outside.”
As the storm system moved east Sunday night, tornado warnings were issued – then expired – for parts of southeastern Mississippi and southwestern Alabama.
CNN’s Maggie Schneider, Chandler Friedman, Elwyn Lopez and Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report.