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Twister proves deadly in MS

BY GEORGE PIPER | HEBRON, Miss. | April 15, 1999

HEBRON, Miss. (April 15, 1999) -- A late-evening tornado cut a 10-mile long

path of destruction in southeastern Mississippi on Wednesday, killing one

person and injuring more than 30.

Initial assessments indicate up to 50 homes were destroyed or sustained major

damage in a three-county area, said Clif Lusk, spokesman for the Mississippi

Emergency Management Agency. In Moss, the small town's firehouse received a

direct hit, destroying the building and its vehicles.

State and local crews descended on Covington, Jones and Jasper counties to

help with cleanup and determine future needs. Salvation Army and American

Red Cross personnel are in the area to feed and clothe disaster survivors.

The fast-moving storm produced an F-3 tornado on the Fujita scale and first

struck in rural Covington County just before 11 p.m. Authorities reported no

injuries, but listed one home destroyed and five residences damaged.

Neighboring Jones County sustained the most damage when the twister moved

across the county line. A 71-year-old man died in his mobile home near

Hebron, and some 40 homes received major damage or were destroyed. Lusk said

local farmers lost chicken operations and cattle in the disaster.

Six miles away in the tiny Jasper town of Moss, two volunteer firefighters

were manning the station when the county's civil defense office warned them

of the tornado. The men huddled beneath a pumper truck, said Lusk. When the

storm passed, the only thing left behind was the pumper truck, the concrete

foundation and the firefighters, one of whom sustained minor injuries.

Gov. Kirk Fordice declared a state of emergency, which opens up emergency

housing funds for survivors. MEMA is gathering figures to see if the

residential areas can get federal aid, said Lusk, and farmers may qualify

for disaster aid from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Wednesday's twister is the first such fatal storm in two years in

Mississippi. Twenty-two tornadoes touched down in January, but caused minor

damage in rural areas.

Also on Thursday, authorities reported tornadoes in Conroe, Texas, and Pine

Grove, Ark., where one house and one barn were destroyed.

Earlier this week in Texas, powerful wind gusts destroyed 20 homes and

damaged more than 100 others in Midland County, causing minor injuries and

leaving dozens of families homeless.

Updated April 16, 1999

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