- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Hail and damaging thunderstorms raked southern parts of Mississippi on Thursday even as people across the state try to recover from flooding that began last week.

The National Weather Service counted 44 hail reports in 15 counties, with baseball-sized hail reported near Purvis and golf ball-sized hail reported in Lincoln and Lawrence counties.

A funnel cloud was spotted near Saucier about 5 p.m. Thursday, but Harrison County Emergency Management Director Rupert Lacy said the storm produced only one report of downed tree limbs, despite threatening rotation.

Andrew Ansorge, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Slidell, Louisiana, said a survey team will have to determine whether a tornado actually took place. The Weather Service later issued a tornado warning for Pearl River County, but Ansorge said no damage was immediately reported.

Damaging winds struck elsewhere, including blowing the roof off a Miles Lumber Co. building in Silver Creek. There were also isolated reports of trees falling on houses.

Nearly 14,000 customers statewide were without electricity Thursday evening, including thousands in and around Vicksburg and Natchez.

David Cox, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pearl, said the hail stemmed from a stalled frontal boundary that left the atmosphere unstable. He says more storms, although maybe not as severe, could occur Friday in southern Mississippi.

“This boundary is not really moving yet,” Cox said. “It’s just going to sit there.”

The Mississippi Management Emergency Agency reported Wednesday that initial damage surveys show almost 1,600 houses statewide flooded beginning last week, including more than 600 homes with major damage. That total is likely to rise, though.

The Coldwater River at Marks is finally dropping slowly from an all-time high, but residents there can’t yet move to the cleanup stage.

“This time, it’s all the way in my home,” Quitman County resident Jodylynn Smith told WREG-TV (https://bit.ly/1pP9NKo) Wednesday.

State officials have counted 77 flooded homes in the county, but that number could rise.

Quitman County Chancery Clerk Butch Scipper said that until floodwaters recede, it’s unsafe for crews to make assessments in person. Scipper said Quitman County was using a drone to assess conditions in heavily flooded rural areas in the northern half of the county. He said the poor, rural county is hoping for federal aid.

Cleanup is beginning to move ahead in the Pine Belt region, though.

In Forrest County, 158 houses suffered some type of damage. Of those, three were destroyed and 47 had major damage.

Lamar County saw eight homes affected by the flooding, in addition to two commercial properties.

James Smith, director of the Lamar County Emergency Management Agency tells the Hattiesburg American (https://hatne.ws/1XxjmIE) officials are still waiting to receive numbers regarding damaged roads.

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