Suspected tornadoes slam Florida, Mississippi; up to 10 homes damaged or destroyed

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PENSACOLA, Fla. (FOX News & AP) — Suspected tornadoes touched along Florida’s Panhandle and in Mississippi on Monday, destroying up to 10 homes, and sending fire crews out to investigate reports of residents trapped under rubble.

The tornadoes were associated with the southern part of a large winter storm system that brought the eastern U.S. snow, sleet, strong winds and rain, and which came on the heels of record-breaking low temperatures.

The National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama confirmed a tornado touchdown near Century, Florida, located in the northwest corner of the state’s panhandle region, Fox 10 reported.

Escambia County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Dewes saw the apparent twister that hit Century, Florida, from his patrol car. He said an entire uprooted pine tree flew in front of the car before he turned away from the storm.

Of the tornado, Dewes says he has “never seen one form that big and that fast.” Ben Boutwell is president of the Century City Council.

He took shelter with his family in the center of his home as the storm passed, saying he heard “that typical roar, like a train.”Boutwell said homes about four blocks away from him had major damage.

He said emergency crews were conducting a search and rescue in the neighborhood.

Escambia County spokeswoman Joy Tsubooka told the Associated Press the storm destroyed or significantly damaged about 10 homes.

Tsubooka added that fire crews were investigating reports that some residents may have been trapped in the rubble of destroyed homes, but she said several of the reports had already proved to be unfounded. She said some people had reported minor cuts from flying debris but that she had not received any reports of serious injuries.

Gulf Power reported on its website that about 800 people in Century were without electricity.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency received reports of storm damage from 20 counties from severe weather that moved through the state Monday, with minor injuries being reported in Lincoln County,WBDB/WLBT-TV reported.

Windows were blown out of cars and two gymnasiums and a library were damaged at a K-12 school in Wesson where children were in attendance when heavy thunderstorms and a possible tornado passed through.

There were no reports of any students injured, Mississippi Department of Education spokeswoman Patrice Guilfoyle told the AP.