JACKSON, Mississippi — Residents of eastern Mississippi on Thursday continued to clean up debris from homes, student housing and a small-town Baptist church that were damaged by tornadoes two days earlier.
The National Weather Service said it determined four tornadoes touched down in the state on Tuesday.
An EF1 tornado with winds of 110 mph hit southern Newton County; an EF2 tornado with 125 mph winds tracked through northwestern Lauderdale County through the small town of Collinsville and into Kemper County; an EF2 tornado with 115 mph winds hit Kemper County at the town of Scooba and went into Noxubee County, and an EF1 tornado with 110 mph winds hit central Noxubee County at Shuqualak, Joanne Culin, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Jackson office, said Thursday.
Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday declared a state of emergency for Lauderdale County, which is designed to help cut through bureaucracy to speed up the recovery process. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said 31 homes were destroyed or had major damage, and 48 had minor damage.
Student housing at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba was damaged, as was the First Baptist Church of Collinsville. Hundreds of people on Wednesday helped clean up the church, where Sunday school rooms, the sanctuary and offices were damaged.
"I think everybody's just going to come together through this," church member Ryan Dunehew told WTOK-TV (http://bit.ly/1mgbqyw ). "I mean, God has really been bringing this church together the past few months. And this building's pretty new. We just got done with it. But I think he's using it to bring us all closer together."
The Meridian Star reported (http://bit.ly/1mgbUEO ) that Sheila Scott, who is a widow and breast-cancer survivor, was with her two Scottish terriers, Jack and Macy, when a tornado hit her house in Collinsville and tore off the roof.
"My sister texted me to make sure I was OK, and I was watching The Weather Channel," she said. "I looked out and saw it was really dark. So I went and got some pillows and my dogs, and got in the safe room. Then I heard something pop. And honestly, I thought it was just shingles. I had no idea it was this bad."
In less than a minute, it was over.
"I walked out and thought, 'The lights are back on,'" Scott said. "But it was the light coming through the roof."
Even as she looked around at the overturned furniture and broken appliances in her home, Scott said she was fine.
"It's just stuff," she said. "It's not people."