Several people were injured Thursday as powerful thunderstorms packing heavy rain and possible tornadoes pushed across Mississippi.
A spokeswoman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, Lea Stokes, said schools and buses were damaged in Caledonia and one of the old gyms there was badly destroyed.
Choctaw County Medical Center in Ackerman, Miss., said it had received reports of two storm injuries but that they did not appear to be serious.
An emergency management spokesman in Choctaw County, Steve Montgomery, said one woman was injured and a large dairy barn was heavily damaged during the peak of the storms Thursday afternoon.
Severe storms also left a trail of downed trees in parts of Noxubee and Clarke counties in Mississippi, and parts of Choctaw County, Ala.
National Weather Service officials say the Meridian area dodged a bullet.
"Basically Lauderdale and Kemper County weren't affected," said NWS spokesman John Baxter. "We're about the only part of the state that didn't."
In fact, by noon the Meridian area was under a tornado warning, which led to the early release of schools and non-essential government employees throughout Lauderdale County.
"I'd rather send the kids home and miss a little bit of classroom time than a tornado hit a school, or if they're on their way home, for the buses to be blown off the road because of bad weather," Baxter said. "If you're going to err, err on the side of safety."
Although the official start of severe weather season is still almost two months away, Baxter says he's not necessarily surprised by the storms.
"Thunderstorms this time of year are not totally uncommon but of this intensity. This number of storms is a bit unusual," said Baxter. "It's too early to say whether this is a trend. Weather does have cycles and this could be a warm winter."