By Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Press
JACKSON — Strong storms will push through Mississippi on Monday with the possibility of flash flooding, damaging winds, hail and tornadoes, forecasters said.
Anna Weber, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, said there’s a possibility of tornadoes, 60- to 70-mph gusts and hail the size of golf balls. The weather is expected to move into Mississippi in the early afternoon and could remain in the state through midnight.
The weather service issued a tornado watch for nearly two dozen central and southern Mississippi counties until 8 p.m. CST.
The greatest risk is south of Interstate 20, and that includes areas battered by three tornadoes Feb. 10.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn said more than 1,000 homes in five counties were affected by those tornadoes, including the twister that hit Hattiesburg and other cities. Flynn said close to 900 of those homes had major damage or were destroyed.
“There are a lot of places, especially in Hattiesburg, were people are living in structures that are leaning,” Flynn said.
“If you are in a home that was damaged and you are trying to stay in it, 60- to 70-mile-per-hour wind gusts could take it over,” Flynn said. “We want them to have a plan to get out quick.”
Authorities said strong winds also pose a significant risk of bringing down trees damaged in the earlier storms and sending debris flying through the air.
Kyle Hopkins, operations officer for Forrest County Emergency Management, said there are probably 400 to 500 homes in his county with tarps covering holes in the roofs. He said officials are trying to get the word out that people should secure the tarps and monitor the weather.
“And they should be wary that if winds do pick up, some of this loose debris can become a projectile,” Hopkins said.
Flash flooding is another concern. The ground is saturated, and some rivers and streams are at or near flood stage.
Strong winds also can uproot trees in saturated ground.