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UPDATE: Nixon tours tornado damage in Rolla area

Saturday, January 1, 2011 | 4:25 p.m. CST; updated 5:34 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 1, 2011

KANSAS CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon is spending New Year's Day touring damage from a storm that killed four in Missouri and three in neighboring Arkansas, and injured dozens of others.

Shaken residents spent New Year's Day sifting through the wreckage wrought by tornadoes that touched down in several states on the last day of 2010.

Six of the victims died Friday as tornadoes fueled by unusually warm air pummeled the South and Midwest. A seventh victim, who was injured Friday near Rolla, died Saturday at a hospital in Columbia, said Bruce Southard, the chief of the Rolla Rural Fire Department.

The woman, whose name wasn't immediately released, was entertaining a friend, Alice Cox, 69, of Belle in her trailer when the twister hit.

Southard said nothing was left of the trailer except for the frame and that the twister scattered debris 40 to 50 yards from where the trailer had sat. The woman was found under a pile of debris, Southard said.

"It's like you set a bomb off in it," Southard said in a phone interview. "It just annihilated it."

The National Weather Service determined the home was hit by a weak tornado that was 50 yards wide and traveled less than a mile.

Nixon started the tours around 11 a.m. in the St. Louis County town of Sunset Hills, where violent storms hit after noon Friday and left a trail of debris.

Mayor William Nolan has said cars and trucks were flipped, but no serious injuries have been reported.

Nixon was spending the afternoon in the Rolla area.

At a farm that in nearby Lecoma, 21-year-old Megan Ross and her 64-year-old grandmother Loretta Anderson died when a tornado hit where their family lived among three mobile homes and two frame houses, Dent County Emergency Management Coordinator Brad Nash said.

In the northwestern Arkansas hamlet of Cincinnati, Gerald Wilson, 88, and his wife, Mamie, 78, died in their home and Dick Murray, 78, died after being caught by the storm while milking cows, Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder said.

Severe storms, including possible tornadoes, also ripped through central Mississippi on New Year's Eve, and emergency teams were working Saturday to survey the damage. The National Weather Service in Jackson reported at least three people hurt and extensive structural damage. No one was killed. The storms knocked down trees and power lines. About 6 inches of rain fell in places, leading to flash flooding.

Ed Agre, a senior forecaster at the National Weather Service in Jackson, and other forecasters at the National Weather Service's building at the Jackson airport were forced into a tornado shelter when winds hit 60 miles per hour.

"It was pretty intense," Agre said.

The Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson reported that the storm forced the evacuation of about 200 people from the Jackson-Evers International Airport, where a possible tornado was reported crossing a runway. The airport was forced to run on generators and a hangar was damaged, officials said.

Power was knocked out to about 20,000 customers, and by Saturday afternoon about 10,000 remained without power, Entergy Mississippi reported.


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