DURANT — A small Mississippi town clobbered by an apparent tornado during fierce weekend storms could be without power for days, authorities said Monday.
More than 11,000 customers around the state remained without power as of Monday afternoon. And in hard-hit Durant, Mayor Tasha Davis said it could be up to a week until a substation can be repaired that supplies power to the 900 customers of the city-owned electrical system.
The town of 2,700, about 60 miles north of Jackson, suffered some of the worst damage from Sunday’s storms as they crossed the state.
National Weather Service surveyors have already confirmed seven tornadoes in Mississippi, and Gov. Phil Bryant said the total could rise to as many as 20.
Durant resident Carlton Hurt died after a tree limb hit his house, knocking a beam into his head, family members said. Hunter Baker, a 7-year-old from the Jackson suburb of Brandon, died after he was electrocuted while unplugging an electric charger cord from a golf cart, according to Rankin County officials.
Durant residents picked through debris Monday for anything salvageable. Basketball players from Holmes Community College were stacking cinderblocks outside a store belonging to Mattie Coleman. Further along, Dee Andre Johnson was hauling branches out of his yard.
“I opened my door and saw it coming down the highway,” Johnson said of the storm. “There was a lot of compressing in it, a lot of pressure. It touched down and jumped up several times.”
The storm caused minor damage to Johnson’s house, but ripped the porch and a bedroom away from a neighbor’s house. Early estimates show at least 100 houses in Durant were hit, with many of the town’s once-towering trees uprooted.
“We have damage on every street,” Davis said.
Steven McCraney, deputy director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said workers are going to door-to-door in Durant looking for people who may need electricity to power medical devices.
Bryant said Mississippi hopes to obtain federal aid for individuals and governments. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will decide on individual aid based on a number of factors. Governments must show $4.5 million in damage to qualify for aid.
Making things more complicated, Davis said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann advised town officials that they must continue with city elections tomorrow, like other towns statewide.
“Now we’re looking for flashlights,” Davis said, to assist in counting ballots.
The storms also left several people injured. A man hit by lightning in the south Mississippi town of Prentiss was expected to be released from a hospital later Monday, emergency management officials said.
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