Many people across Mississippi awoke Wednesday morning to find the wind howling and the rain coming down, but for some in Winston County, the early morning hours were much worse as a tornado ripped across the landscape.
"I've never seen anything like this in this area," said resident Argie Luke. "We have had some storms come out of Neshoba County and go over us, but it's the first time it hit me, us here."
As the tornado continued to gain strength, it touched down around Nanih Wayah with winds estimated at 130 to 140 miles per hour. That puts this tornado in the F-2 category on the Fujita scale. At the same time it reached its peak, it also reached a home on McBrayer Road just north of the Handle community.
"We got the call notifying us between 3:00 a.m. and 3:15 a.m. about the situation. We came over and immediately started searching," said Winston County coroner, Scott Gregory.
Unfortunately, they found the home destroyed, several people injured and one person found dead approximately 150 yards from his home.
"At least one fatality and one seriously injured with some broken bones," said Gregory. "We had two people that had minor bumps, bruises, and scratches and they have all been transported to local medical centers."
The injured woman with the broken bones was taken to a Jackson hospital for treatment.
Meridian was spared any widespread serious damage. One resident in the 3700 block of Dunnrovin Road reported the roof off his back porch. No injuries were reported.
Some trees and power lines were downed in the Bonita Lakes Highway 19 South area. No widespread outages were reported, and some damage to Bonita Lakes Mall, including J.C Penney, The Gap and United Artists Theater was reported.
Although no major injuries were reported in Jasper County, some of the worst damage did involve houses. One was located just off Highway 503 in the Hero community outside Hickory.
"It was like thundering to me and a real strong burst of wind that kept rushing," said Marie Evans, whose home suffered extensive damage.
It was at that time that Evans says she pushed her husband out her the bed and her son came to the door.
"Like I said, my son came to the door and we were on the floor and I heard the water rushing out and I said somebody needs to see. I believe, in my bathroom, it blew the window out," Evans said.
Family and friends are calling this nothing short of a miracle. After all, high winds removed the roof on almost every part of the house except for the three bedrooms where they were sleeping. And even with damage like this, no one was hurt.
"When I looked in the bathroom and saw the top was out, I said, 'Hallelujah, thank you, Jesus,' because it could've been us gone up," said Evans.
In all, at least seven houses in Jasper County received major damage and about another half dozen or so in neighboring Smith County.
With no major injuries reported in either county, survivors of the storm say they have a lot to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving.
Damage and injuries were reported in Smith and Pontotoc Counties. A tornado touched down U.S. Highway 49 in Orange Grove in Harrison County, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
And in Alabama, an elderly woman was killed and several other people injured when a line of tornados touched down Wednesday morning. The damage ranged from Dothan to Anniston and over into east Alabama. Many trees were downed, along with some power lines and roofs damaged.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.