JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Rain, thunderstorms and a slight risk of new tornadoes could complicate work Tuesday to clean up debris strewn across southern Mississippi by a tornado whose severe destruction left residents marveling that no one had died.
Since the tornado hit Sunday afternoon, residents in Hattiesburg and surrounding areas have been cutting up trees and branches and using tarps to stop water from pouring through gaping holes into their homes. There was an increased police presence in the city of Petal on Tuesday as volunteers hit the streets and storm victims salvaged what belongings they could.
More rain and a slight risk for damaging winds and tornadoes in the area Tuesday afternoon could bring more misery.
Alan Campbell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, said there's a 100 percent chance of rain for parts of central and south Mississippi, possibly up to 3 inches in places.
"There is a small concern of tornadoes across the southern portion of the state. It's not a huge concern like the other day, but it is a concern nonetheless," Campbell said. He also said there's also the possibility of straight-line winds of 60 miles per hour.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeff Rent said any storms and strong winds could be dangerous, especially because damaged trees that are still standing could be knocked down.
Rent said emergency crews hustled Tuesday morning to assess damages while there was a break in the rain. Rent said officials already know of more than 570 damaged and destroyed homes and that number is likely to increase. At least 80 people were injured in the storms.
David Dean spent Tuesday rounding up the last of the items he could salvage from his demolished home in Petal.
"It's really just kind of sinking in today. The first time in 54 years of my life I'm homeless," Dean said Tuesday. "But God is going to take care of it."
Dean and his wife were at church when the tornado hit, but his two adult daughters and a future son-in-law were in the house when it was demolished.
"As soon as I got here and found out my daughters were all right, I was happy. I said don't worry about the house," Dean said.
Dean said his family will stay with relatives and friends until they figure out what to do.
Officials said despite dozens of injuries, no one died. They said the human toll could have been much worse, but the nature of the storm allowed forecasters to give people ample warning. Furthermore, the University of Southern Mississippi — which was in the tornado's path — was emptier than usual because of Mardi Gras. And some businesses were either closed or quieter than normal because it was a Sunday.
The sheer scope of the damage made it difficult to do a full assessment. Some 50 roads were closed at one point because of felled trees, downed power lines and debris.
Associated Press photographer Rogelio Solis in Petal, Miss., contributed to this report.