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Storms kill 4 in Mississippi, more severe weather expected

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A fire station was damaged, as were parts of William Carey University, a private Christian college with about 4,000 students. (Credit: William Carey University)

The Southeast is bracing for more severe weather Saturday night after a possible tornado left four dead in southern Mississippi earlier in the day.

Parts of Mississippi could see tennis-ball sized hail and 60 mph wind gusts, the National Weather Service in Jackson said. Isolated flash flooding was also a threat.

Severe weather was also expected to menace the coastlines of Alabama and the Florida panhandle, the weather service said.

Area still cleaning up

The new round of severe weather comes hours after southern Mississippi was battered by what officials say might have been a tornado.

The storm left four dead, and more than 20 injured in Forrest County, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said. Most of the damage was centered around the cities of Hattiesburg and Petal.

The National Weather Service in Jackson dispatched a damage survey team to the area to investigate the likely tornado.

The team found evidence of at least 15 miles of damage, the weather service said on Twitter.

Preliminary survey finds evidence of tornado that may have been at least EF-3 intensity, weather service said on Twitter.

Officials warned of downed power lines and debris spread over large areas and urged people to avoid traveling.

Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency and “ordered all available resources toward rescue and recovery.”

Hattiesburg has sustained a lot of damage, the National Weather Service said in an advisory. It’s the largest city in Forrest County with about 46,000 people.

William Carey University’s Hattiesburg campus on the outskirts of downtown was among the properties affected.

Students at William Carey were reporting minor injuries, the university said. Dormitories and other buildings were damaged, the school said.

Volunteers began cleaning up the damage Saturday afternoon.

Reporters and editors from CNN affiliate WDAM posted to Twitter pictures of severe damage in Hattiesburg and in Petal, a nearby city of about 10,400 people.

Parts of an AT&T store and a loan shop collapsed at a shopping center in Petal, one of the images showed.

CNN’s Allison Chinchar and Kayla Rodgers contributed to this report.