By HOLBROOK MOHR
Associated Press Writer
YAZOO CITY, Miss. (AP) - Tornadoes ripped through the Southeast on Saturday, killing seven people in Mississippi and injuring more than a dozen others.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn said three deaths were reported in Yazoo County and three in Choctaw County in north-central Mississippi.
Gov. Haley Barbour told The Associated Press there was "utter obliteration" in parts of Yazoo County, an area where he is from. More than 15 other counties were also damaged.
"The effects of these storms have left many Mississippians with destroyed businesses and without homes," Barbour said.
The swath of debris forced rescuers to pick up some of the injured on all-terrain vehicles after a ¾-mile wide tornado touched down in at least three counties in the west-central part of the state.
Tornadoes were also reported in Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama, and the severe weather continued to track eastward.
In Yazoo City about 40 miles north of Jackson, stunned residents stood on a hill overlooking the destruction. A National Guard helicopter sat nearby, waiting to Barbour on an aerial tour.
"Sad, man," said 22-year-old Rafael Scott, shaking his head. "It's really hard to believe it. I heard they found a couple of bodies."
Three broken crosses stood near a flattened church, and religious materials were scattered among twisted steel, broken wood and furniture. A nearby funeral home was reduced to rubble. In a patch of woods, pieces of tin were twisted high up in the broken trees.
Josh Nicholson, 26, was driving home through the storm with his wife, 1-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter when a power line fell across the road in front their sport utility vehicle.
"There was nowhere we could go," he said.
Nicholson and his wife took the children out of their car seats and they all huddled in the back of the vehicle. All of the sudden, Nicholson said, the vehicle spun around and a tree clipped part of the truck where the 3-year-old had been sitting. Luckily, nobody was hurt.
"It was scary," Nicholson said.
Downed power lines and trees blocked roads, and at least four people had been brought by four-wheeler to a triage center at an old discount store parking lot, Yazoo City Mayor McArthur Straughter said as sirens whined in the background.
Yazoo County had about 28,000 residents during the last Census count a decade ago. The area is known for its picturesque hills rising abruptly from the Mississippi Delta and features rows of crops, catfish ponds, rivers and bayous.
Jim Pollard, a spokesman for American Medical Response ambulance service, said two patients from Yazoo County were airlifted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
More than a dozen people were treated for cuts, bruises and broken bones in Yazoo City, said Laura Henderson, who works at the hospital there.
"We are fully staffed and ready to take anything that comes in here to the best of our ability," she said, adding that hospital staffers had also been sent to help at a triage center.
Houston Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt, who pitched on Friday, was returning to Mississippi after a tornado damaged his parents' home in Weir, Miss., which was farther west of Yazoo City.
Willie M. Horton, 78, said he hunkered down in the hallway of his house in Holmes County, Miss. "Everything is down. A lot of trees. Big trees," Horton said.
He said his sister-in-law's house nearby was damaged, and a nephew's mobile home was carried away by the storm.
"My cousin - half his barn is gone," Horton said.
The severe weather darkened skies and dumped rain on the region, much of which was under a tornado watch or warning at some point during the day.
The weather hampered crews trying to clean up an oil spill after an offshore rig exploded earlier this week off the coast of Louisiana. Several sporting events and festivals also were rescheduled.
In northeast Louisiana, several people had minor injuries. The storms also damaged a tank at a chemical plant in Tallulah, causing a small nitrogen leak.
Associated Press writers Emily Wagster Pettus and Jack Elliot Jr. in Jackson, Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans and Jacob Jordan in Atlanta contributed to this report.