TUPELO, Mississippi (CNN) — People in northern Mississippi and Alabama huddled in hallways and basements as a string of tornadoes ripped through their states Monday, a day after another line of storms killed 16 people to their west.
Two people were killed at a trailer park west of Athens, Alabama, on Monday, according to a post on the City of Athens Facebook page. Another person died in Richland, Mississippi, said Rankin County Emergency Management Director Bob Wedgeworth, bringing the storms’ overall death toll to 19.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency for all counties.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the twisters inflicted “severe damage” around the town of Louisville, about 90 miles northeast of Jackson, and more around Tupelo. Winston Medical Center, Louisville’s major hospital, was among the buildings hit, Bryant told reporters.
“We have had early reports that the Winston Medical Center has received damage from a tornado. Walls are down. Some gas leak is occurring,” he said.
State emergency management chief Robert Latham said authorities were grappling with “multiple events over a wide part of the state,” and that more tornado warnings were expected.
“This is not over. It’s going to last on into the night,” he said.
State Health Director Jim Craig said hospitals in Winston County and in Tupelo had asked for assistance treating what were potentially a large number of injuries, but no numbers were available. There were no confirmed fatalities as of Monday evening, he said.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado emergency warning for the area around Athens, Alabama, near the Tennessee state line, on Monday evening: “This is an extremely dangerous tornado. You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter,” the warning stated.
A tornado emergency also was declared in southeastern Tennessee for east central Lincoln, Moore and northwest Franklin counties. Storm spotters were tracking a large and extremely dangerous tornado seven miles east of Fayetteville, Tennessee, the weather service.
In Tupelo, several buildings were destroyed or damaged. Buildings near a major commercial district on the city’s north side were “wiped away,” Scott Morris, a reporter for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, told CNN’s “The Lead.”
Numerous trees and power lines were down, and “quite a few buildings are destroyed up there,” Morris said.
The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center declared tornado emergencies for several counties in northern Mississippi on Monday afternoon as the line of storms moved through the state from southwest to northeast.
“Basement. Now … let’s go,” Matt Laubhan, the chief meteorologist at Tupelo television station WTVA, ordered station staff before walking off the set himself.
Sarah Robinson, a spokeswoman for the city, said several hotels and restaurants were damaged, but no fatalities or injuries had been reported in the immediate aftermath.
Another “large, violent and extremely dangerous” tornado had been confirmed near Zama, Mississippi, between Jackson and Tupelo. A twister possibly a mile wide was reported outside nearby Louisville about an hour later. Another tornado was spotted near Richland, south of Jackson. And yet one more was reported near Yazoo City, northwest of Jackson, four years after an April 2010 tornado that killed four people there and 10 across the state, said Joey Ward, Yazoo City’s emergency management director.
“It’s still hopefully very fresh on people’s minds, and that they take all of the warnings that we’ve been putting out all day very seriously,” Ward said.
Nearly 5 million people were at moderate risk of severe weather late Monday, while 31 million people were at slight risk, including those in Atlanta and Nashville.
Matt Smith and Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta. Martin Savidge reported from Tupelo, Mississippi. CNN’s Suzanne Presto, Dave Hennen, Devon Sayers, Joe Sutton, Ed Payne, Dave Alsup, Matthew Stucker, Catherine E. Shoichet and Sean Morris also contributed to this report.