Tornado Rips Through Southern Mississippi, Killing 4

-At least four people have died in Hattiesburg, Miss., after a tornado slashed through the city and its surrounding area in the early hours of Saturday morning, the city confirmed on its Twitter account.

The National Weather Service rated the tornado an EF-3, with winds between 111 and 135 miles per hour.

The agency is reporting Interstate 59 north of Hattiesburg is closed due to debris and downed power lines.

The university reports some students had minor injuries, and some dorms were damaged. Three to five inches of rain have already fallen, according to the NWS, and an additional one to two inches could follow.

Greg Flynn of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said "massive damage" was reported in a three-county area after the tornado hit about 4 a.m.

William Carey University in downtown Hattiesburg also reported damage.

Glen Moore, director of Forrest County Emergency Management, told ABC that his office received reports of people trapped in homes that were either destroyed or collapsed. For students who could not otherwise make it to their homes, arrangements were being made. Spokeswoman Mia Overton says school officials hope to restart classes in borrowed space at the University of Southern Mississippi or at Pearl River Community College while the campus is repaired.

Mississippi Power crews are assessing damage and working to restore power in the areas that are safe for them to work.

Roofs were torn from homes and churches, and trees blown down when a tornado hit southern MS early on Saturday morning.

Windows were blown out and roofs of buildings peeled back at the Hattiesburg Salvation Army, WDAM reported.

The tornado was part of a wall of storms that knocked out power to almost 16,000 customers, mostly in Forrest County, where Hattiesburg is the county seat.

Photos posted on the university's Twitter feed showed vehicles in a parking lot flipped over and parts of a brick building ripped down. Warnings of severe thunderstorms accompanied by a risk for damaging winds, large hail and tornadoes have been issued across parts of the southeast throughout Sunday.

Thousands of customers in southern MS are without power due to severe weather that pummeled the region.

  • Archie Newman