By Carey Gillam
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - One person was killed and five others hurt as severe weather, that included a tornado, swept through Mississippi on Thursday knocking out power and damaging buildings, emergency officials said.
The tornado was part of a storm system that has been crawling eastward over the last few days producing twisters and damaging winds in Arkansas and Missouri; hail and high winds in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas; heavy snow in Colorado, South Dakota and Minnesota; and flood warnings in Illinois and Indiana.
Five Mississippi counties reported damage to several homes and a fire station, and downed trees and power lines. About 4,000 electrical customers had power knocked out by the storms on Thursday, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
The death and five injuries occurred in Kemper County, according to Greg Flynn, spokesman for MEMA. He said that two of those injured had to be hospitalized, but did not have additional details.
A tornado destroyed mobile homes, uprooted trees and overturned an 18-wheel tractor trailer in Mississippi's Noxubee County, according to a Noxubee County Sheriff's Department employee.
In neighboring Arkansas, Governor Mike Beebe declared 15 counties disaster areas due to damage from severe storms and tornadoes on Wednesday afternoon and evening.
To the north, in Missouri, Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in the St. Louis area where about 25 homes in the suburb of Hazelwood sustained damage from high winds and falling trees.
Winds of 40 to 70 miles per hour were noted through the area, with a gust of 101 miles per hour clocked southwest of St. Louis, according to the National Weather Service.
While the worst of the damage was noted in Missouri and Arkansas, severe weather, including hail and high winds, was reported from northeast Texas through Pennsylvania and into New York, said Bill Bunting, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.
In Arkansas, at least four people were taken to the hospital with injuries attributed to the severe weather on Wednesday after a twister tore through a church near the town of Clinton, damaging several buildings and uprooting trees, officials said.
The tornado was an EF-2, with wind speeds of up to 135 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. The tornado, which traveled a 17-mile path and was 400 yards wide, destroyed five houses, it said.
In the suburbs of Chicago and in parts of Indiana, several areas near rivers were under flood warnings due to heavy rains over the last 48 hours, according to the National Weather Service.
Eight homes and a church were destroyed in the north-central part of Arkansas, officials said, and electricity was knocked out to some 4,000 customers.
Severe thunderstorms were possible for Thursday into Friday for the central and eastern Gulf states into the Carolinas and parts of southern Virginia, according to the Storm Prediction Center.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Mary Wisniewski in Chicago, David Bailey in Minneapolis, Suzi Parker in Little Rock, Arkansas and Emily Le Coz in Jackson, Mississippi; Editing by Scott Malone, Bob Burgdorfer, Alden Bentley and Cynthia Johnston)