A powerful tornado struck southern Mississippi before dawn on Saturday, killing four people and causing widespread property damage, state and local officials said as they warned residents to brace for a second round of severe storms.
The twister, which touched down at about 3:45 a.m. Central time (0945 GMT), reduced many buildings to splinters, downed power lines and flipped over numerous cars, according to photographs shared by officials on social media and footage aired by local news outlets.
The tornado ripped a path of destruction 25 miles long and a half-mile wide across parts of four counties. The adjacent towns of Hattiesburg and Petal - about 75 miles north of Biloxi on the Gulf Coast - bore the storm's brunt, authorities said.
At least four people were confirmed dead in Hattiesburg, three of them killed in trailer homes, Mayor Johnny DuPree told a news conference. Television station WDAM in Hattiesburg said the victims ranged in age from 20 to 72.
"This was a lethal and extremely dangerous storm," said Governor Phil Bryant, who issued an emergency declaration for affected areas, adding that he expected to consult with White House officials soon.
Ray Coleman, spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said 28 people in Forrest County alone were reported hurt, a mix of minor and severe injuries but none believed to be life-threatening.