TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - An apparent tornado spawned by storms sweeping across the Southeast damaged a shopping mall and downed power lines in northeast Mississippi on Thursday, and severe weather warnings were in effect for northwest Alabama.
There were no reported injuries. Mississippi authorities received reports of fallen trees and debris across the area, and officials were dispatched to check out the damage at a shopping mall in Tupelo, Miss., about 160 miles northeast of Jackson.
A number of northeast Mississippi counties and portions of northwest Alabama were under tornado watches or warnings until midafternoon Thursday.
In Tupelo, a motel manager driving to work saw that the area had been hit by severe weather.
"There were trees down and stuff blown around on Gloster, the main street near the mall," said Dimple Patel, who works about two miles from the Barnes Crossing Mall. "All the lights were out and store people were hanging around outside - even people at the gas station."
The sheriff's office there said officers spotted a possible tornado moving in and out of the clouds, possibly containing debris. Weather officials have not yet confirmed the storm was a twister.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation said several buildings at a district office in Tupelo were damaged. The agency reported downed trees, roof damage and no electricity.
Forecasters said strong winds along the coast could generate rip currents along the beaches, but the main threat was hail, damaging winds and isolated tornadoes. The system was expected to stall over north Alabama, giving much of the eastern part of the state a 20 percent chance of rain.
The low-pressure weather system struck Oklahoma a day earlier, weather officials said.
Experts picked through debris and damage Thursday to determine whether tornadoes touched down after severe storms moved through the state, toppling trees and knocking out power to thousands of people.
As the storms hit Wednesday with thunderstorms, high winds, hail and heavy rain, Shaydestiny Johnson, 16, and her grandmother rushed into the bathroom in their suburban home in western Oklahoma County when they saw the balcony patio fall.
"You could feel the house shaking," said Johnson, of Bethany. "Pictures were falling off the wall. I was shaking."
The possible twister spun up over western Oklahoma County as severe storms moved through during the afternoon rush hour. At least one injury was reported when a woman broke her leg trying to get to a storm shelter in Bethany, authorities said.
About 14,000 customers lost power at the height of the storm, and a fraction of those were still in the dark Thursday morning.
Severe storms strike Southeast
May 9, 2008