JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Strong storms pounded the Deep South on Sunday, killing at least six people in south Mississippi and damaging up to 300 homes and other buildings in northern Louisiana.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency director Greg Michel said one person killed was in Walthall County, two were killed in Lawrence County and three were killed in Jefferson Davis County. All three counties are more than an hour’s drive south of Jackson, near the Louisiana state line.
The two people killed in Lawrence County were a married couple — Lawrence County sheriff’s deputy, Robert Ainsworth, and a Walthall County Justice Court deputy clerk, Paula We, a Facebook post from the county sheriff’s office said.
The National Weather Service said strong winds were sweeping through other parts of Mississippi, and a tornado was spotted north of Meridian near the Alabama state line.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency Sunday night after he said several tornadoes had struck the state.
“This is not how anyone wants to celebrate Easter,” Reeves said on Twitter. “As we reflect on the death and resurrection on this Easter Sunday, we have faith that we will all rise together.”
Strong winds late Sunday toppled power lines and blew trees onto several houses in Clarksdale, Mississippi, trapping some people inside, Mayor Chuck Espy said.
“I know these are some tough times and I’m just asking everyone to stay prayed up,” Espy said.
Before the storms moved into Mississippi, the weather service reported multiple tornadoes and damaging winds over much of northern Louisiana. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries. Utility companies reported thousands of power outages.
The mayor of Monroe, Louisiana, Jamie Mayo, told KNOE-TV that the storm damaged 200-300 homes in and around the city. Flights were canceled at Monroe Regional Airport, where siding was ripped off buildings and debris was scattered on runways. Airport director Ron Phillips told the News-Star the storm caused up to $30 million in damage to planes inside a hangar.
In northwest Louisiana, officials reported damage to dozens of homes in DeSoto and Webster parishes, according to news outlets.
The weather service said the greatest risk for strong Easter Sunday storms covered much of Mississippi, Alabama and western Georgia. That area was at “moderate risk” while much of the rest of the South was under at least a “marginal” risk, the weather service said.
The weather service said a broader area, from east Texas to the East Coast was under at least a “marginal” risk of storms.
In Morgan County, Alabama, a church roof and steeple were damaged by lightning Sunday afternoon, Morgan County Emergency Management Agency Eddie Hicks told AL.com. Shoals Creek Baptist Church in Priceville was struck by lightning Sunday afternoon. No injuries were reported.
WBMA-TV reported that strong winds damaged buildings and snapped trees in Walker County, Alabama, north of Birmingham.