National Weather Service forecasters said they believe multiple tornadoes hit the southern half of Mississippi on Thursday as a storm system moves east. There was a tornado watch in the area until 11 p.m. CT that will likely turn into a severe thunderstorm watch, CBS News weather producer David Parkinson said.
No injuries have been reported and damage reports remain scattered.
Weather Service meteorologists will survey later seeking to confirm twisters.Dozens of schools in Mississippi and Alabama dismissed students early Thursday as a precaution.
People huddled in hallways, stairways and basements across southwest Mississippi and the Jackson metropolitan area for much of Thursday afternoon, as tornado sirens wailed, winds howled and rains poured.
Utilities reported more than 50,000 electrical outages statewide, with trees blocking roads and highways in many place.
Dozens of schools and colleges dismissed students early as tornado watches were issued.
There was also a band of power outages in east Texas stretching from Tyler south to nearly College Station.
This is the second day of a three-day storm system that is moving east ahead of Easter weekend. Dangerous and destructive wind gusts could potentially hit Friday from Jacksonville to Washington, D.C., Parkinson said.
The storm could impact holiday travel Friday. The storm is expected to hit travel hub Atlanta around 8-9 a.m. and then be in the Raleigh and Charlotte area by the early afternoon, Parkinson said.
The same system produced tornadoes and hail earlier in North Texas, the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma, southeastern Kansas and Louisiana. Shreveport, Louisiana resident Carl Sanders described the storm as "intense" to CBS affiliate KSLA-TV.
"We heard a rumble man like an escalating wind, and noise and from the back there shook the whole house," Sanders said. "I'm fine we got our health — nothing happened, you know, tangible things can be replaced."