Storms cause heavy rain, wind damage in Deep South

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Powerful storms dumped torrential rains on southern Louisiana and peeled away roofs in a Mississippi community that was hit by a strong tornado Thursday morning, and forecasters said more bad weather was on the way.

The National Weather Service said Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia could receive waves of storms through Sunday.

The first wave was enough for Michael Koehn, who saw it tear through his rural community of Pine Grove near the town of Magee in southern Mississippi.

The NWS confirmed a tornado, rated EF-2, struck Simpson and Smith counties, but there were no reported injuries.

Meteorologist Latrice Maxie said a storm assessment team reported the twister hit Simpson County, east of Magee, between 7:45 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. Thursday before tracking into Smith County. Smith County Emergency Management officials confirmed there are trees down west of Raleigh and a few homes were damaged.

Koehn said the tornado damaged about 25 homes and businesses in Magee, he said, including the small business where he makes and stores wooden furniture.

"My neighbor lost his house completely. A lot of roofs are uncovered, a lot of trees are down," Koehn said. "It was a tornado; I heard the wind. It was a howl like you knew you were in something."

Photos posted on social media by residents and area news outlets showed roofs torn from buildings and multiple fallen trees.

Elsewhere, the agency said heavy rains were threatening to collapse Gayle Evans Lake Dam, located west of Brookhaven, Mississippi, near U.S. 84. A dam failure would send as much as 5 feet of water over the highway, forecasters said.

More than 3 inches of rain fell in Louisiana early Thursday and an additional 5 inches of rain was possible, the weather service said on Twitter and its website.

In Baton Rouge, a police officer and another man worked together to push a stranded car off a flooded road. More than a dozen roads were closed because of rising water, along with a few schools and government offices.

Forecasters issued flash flood watches and warnings across southern Louisiana, and more could be needed as the storms moved eastward.

The rains could help ease drought conditions that are still plaguing much of the region. The driest areas are in the northern counties of Alabama and Georgia, which the National Drought Mitigation Center still lists as being in an extreme drought.