Tornado wrecks businesses, shops in Mississippi city

Published 9:34 pm Saturday, February 23, 2019

Bystanders say a tornado has destroyed or heavily damaged some businesses in a commercial district in Columbus, Mississippi, toppling trees and blacking out power in the area.

Lee Lawrence, who has been selling used cars for decades in the city, says four buildings on his car sales lot have been destroyed, trees have fallen across vehicles and the windows of many cars were shattered when the tornado roared through Saturday afternoon.

Speaking by phone, Lawrence tells The Associated Press he will rebuild.

“It will be a start-over deal,” says Lawrence, who wasn’t present when the tornado struck. “I can’t say it will come back better or stronger, but we’ll come back.”

A photographer for The AP says he also saw antique collector cars at Lawrence’s lot crushed by debris and a nearby pet grooming business destroyed amid twisted piles of metal. A printing shop had a pipe spearing what’s left of the building and a vacant commercial building also appeared heavily damaged.

There were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries. Emergency officials have cordoned off the area.

Authorities say a tornado has touched down in the city of Columbus, Mississippi.
Meteorologist Anna Wolverton with the National Weather Service told The Associated Press that a tornado hit about 5 p.m. CST Saturday and was confirmed on radar.

WTVA TV reported six people were injured in the storm.

Wolverton says she received a report that an emergency operations center in Columbus was hit by the storm and that there were power outages. She says she doesn’t know how long the tornado was on the ground, the path it took, or the storm’s intensity.

Speaking from the weather service office in Jackson, Mississippi, she added that a team of experts would be heading to Columbus on Sunday to determine the storm’s size and strength.
Columbus is a city of more than 23,000 people in east Mississippi.

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center said there were reports of large hail and an apparent brief tornado in Alcorn, Mississippi, as severe storms swept the region.