South Mississippi under tornado watch until 3 a.m., storm damage and 1 death already reported in state

14324764-largeJACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — Wind and lightning caused isolated damage and power outages across Mississippi Thursday as a storm front moved through the state.

South Mississippi is under a tornado watch until 3 a.m. The projected forecast has the squall line of the approaching cold front reaching the coastal counties around midnight.

Earlier Thursday, a man died after a tree fell on a car in Hattiesburg Thursday afternoon, but authorities aren’t sure if it’s because of strong winds. The falling tree knocked down a power line that sparked a fire, leaving the body burned. There were no passengers.

Forrest County Coroner Butch Benedict said his name was being withheld pending notification of family members.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Brett Carr said a number of counties reported damage, but no other injuries had yet been reported.

In DeSoto County, winds blew over an 18-wheeler on Interstate 69 west of Hernando. One example of the damage from the lightning-heavy storms was an empty child care center that caught fire in Batesville. Three houses in Rena Lara and one in Lula were damaged in Coahoma County. Trees and roofs were damaged in Tunica County, and wind blew apart a carport near Arcola in Washington County.

Entergy Mississippi reported about 1,600 customers without power at 7:30 p.m., with the most outages in Sunflower, Tate and Washington counties.

At that point, the main line of storms was still in the northern part of the state, although more isolated storms preceded the line farther south. Some of those produced tornado warnings, but National Weather Service forecasters said it was too soon to conclude that any twisters had touched down.

Players and spectators at a basketball game at Tylertown High School took shelter in hallways, said Walthall County Emergency Management Director Roland Vandenweghe, but no damage was immediately reported.

Forecasters said the greatest tornado risk was south and east of Jackson. Tornado watches expiring late Thursday night or early Friday morning were posted for 58 of Mississippi’s 82 counties.