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At least 3 dead in likely tornado near Hattiesburg, Mississippi

(Severe weather is possible tonight in the Mid-South, please follow WREG for updates)

HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Severe storms shattered parts of southern Mississippi early Saturday, killing at least three people in Forrest County, state Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn said.

The storms also damaged buildings in the cities of Hattiesburg and Petal, including parts of a private college and a fire station, officials said.

A search and rescue operation is underway in Hattiesburg, a city of about 46,000 people, Mayor Johnny DuPree said before dawn Saturday.

The damage may have been caused by a tornado, CNN affiliate WDAM-TV reported.

Most of Hattiesburg’s damage appeared to be on the downtown’s outskirts, DuPree said.

A fire station was damaged, as was parts of William Carey University, a private Christian college with about 4,000 students.

Students at William Carey were reporting minor injuries, the university said.

Dormitories and other buildings were damaged, the school said.

The campus is now closed and students are being told to go home.