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Storm topples RVs near Mississippi's Gulf coast

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 1:34 pm

GAUTIER, Miss. — A storm barreled through Mississippi Gulf Coast communities, leaving about a dozen damaged or destroyed RV trailers at one campground Tuesday amid downed trees and power lines.

The storm blew through the Santa Maria RV Park in Gautier about 8 p.m. Monday, knocking some trailers off their blocks and overturning or destroying others.

The roads leading to the RV park were littered with debris early Tuesday, and street lights were not working. Residents sifted through debris.

Despite the destruction in the park, Jackson County Director of Emergency Management Earl Etheridge said only two people were injured, neither seriously, and both were released from the hospital. He said 23 people were treated at the scene Monday night.

An early damage assessment showed the storm destroyed 17 trailers and damaged another five, with three vehicles also destroyed, Etheridge said. A nearby apartment complex had its back wall knocked off, Etheridge added.

National Weather Service meteorologist Freddie Zeigler in Slidell, La., said a crew was on the scene to assess the damage and to determine whether a tornado hit the area. A determination was expected later Tuesday, he said. Early reports were that straight-line winds as high as 50-60 mph swept through the area.

Park resident Harrold Robbins said he and girlfriend Debbie Dales were getting ready for bed and he was at the front end of the camper they share when the wind hit.

"The front end flipped," he said. "It launched me back into the back end. Then it flipped over on the other side and came back up in the air and landed on our car." He was treated at a hospital for bumps and bruises, and Dales got stitches to her head.

Jessica Cook told television station WLOX that she looked out her window after getting a storm alert and said to herself, "Well, that looks a little bad." She said that when the debris began hitting her trailer hard, she grabbed her son and they huddled together with his father.

"We were just holding each other and telling each other we loved each other because it was that bad," she said.

Cook said her home was knocked off its blocks, but her next-door-neighbor's was completely destroyed and he was pinned under it. She said the fire department managed to free him and he was taken to a hospital.

Jay Huffstatler, a Red Cross official, told WLOX that all of the displaced RV park residents apparently had somewhere else to spend the night.

Keith Davis, the police chief in nearby Moss Point, said there were downed power lines and trees there. He said one power line caught fire but it was quickly extinguished.

A severe thunderstorm warning had been in effect in advance of a strong cold front moving into the region.