Cleanup begins from Southern US storms that left 14 dead

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At Least Seven Dead in Southern U.S. Tornadoes

Recovery crews and utility workers began cleaning up widespread damage on Thursday left by severe storms that spawned tornadoes across six states in the U.S. South and Midwest, killing at least 14 people and destroying scores of homes.

Emergency declarations were issued in Mississippi and Tennessee, the two states hardest hit by severe weather on Wednesday that also complicated getaway plans for travelers looking to make the most of the long holiday weekend.

SEE EARLIER: Severe storms kill six in Southern U.S., snarl holiday traffic

With about 100 million Americans expected to travel over the Christmas holiday, most of them by car, the National Weather Service forecast isolated severe thunderstorms from the mid-Atlantic region to the Gulf Coast and record warmth in New York.

Wednesday's storm system triggered more than 20 tornadoes in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Michigan, authorities said.

One large tornado tore a 100-mile (160-km) path through northern Mississippi, demolishing or heavily damaging more than 100 homes and other buildings before plowing into western Tennessee, authorities said.

See photos of the aftermath:

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Deadly tornado hits the South
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Cleanup begins from Southern US storms that left 14 dead
A vehicle sits among debris near the home of Antonio Yzaguirre, 70, and his wife, Ann Yzaguirre, 69, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015, near Linden, Tenn. The couple was found dead after severe storms went through the area Wednesday night. Several people were killed in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas as spring-like storms mixed with unseasonably warm weather spawned rare Christmastime tornadoes in the South. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
A vehicle sits among debris in an area near Linden, Tenn., Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015. Several people were killed in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas as spring-like storms mixed with unseasonably warm weather spawned rare Christmastime tornadoes in the South. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Interim Sheriff Nick Weems of the Perry County Sheriff's Department looks over debris Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015, near Linden, Tenn. Several people were killed in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas as spring-like storms mixed with unseasonably warm weather spawned rare Christmastime tornadoes in the South. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Vehicles and debris are scattered in an area near Linden, Tenn., Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015. Several people were killed in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas as spring-like storms mixed with unseasonably warm weather spawned rare Christmastime tornadoes in the South. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Members of the Perry County Sheriff's Department look over the site where Antonio Yzaguirre, 70, and his wife, Ann Yzaguirre, 69, were found dead, near Linden, Tenn., Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015. Several people were killed in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas as spring-like storms mixed with unseasonably warm weather spawned rare Christmastime tornadoes in the South. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Members of the Perry County Sheriff's Department look through debris that spread around the area where Antonio Yzaguirre, 70, and his wife, Ann Yzaguirre, 69, were found dead, near Linden, Tenn., Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015. Several people were killed in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas as spring-like storms mixed with unseasonably warm weather spawned rare Christmastime tornadoes in the South. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Concrete blocks from the foundation of the home of Antonio Yzaguirre, and his wife, Ann Yzaguirre, show where the house once stood, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015, after severe storms went through the area Wednesday night near Linden, Tenn. The couple was killed in the storm. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Perry County Deputy Sheriff Richie Weatherly looks through debris, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015, near Linden, Tenn., where Antonio Yzaguirre, 70, and his wife, Ann Yzaguirre, 69, were found dead after severe storms went through the area Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Part of the foundation of the home of Antonio Yzaguirre, and his wife, Ann Yzaguirre, remains, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015, after severe storms went through the area Wednesday night near Linden, Tenn. The couple was killed in the storm. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency in areas affected by the storm, saying 14 tornadoes had touched down in his state. Bryant said seven people were killed and one person was missing.

"Everybody is pulling together here in Mississippi today to help respond to this disaster," Bryant said on CNN.

He said shelters had been set up and the full extent of the damage would not be known for several days. Mississippi authorities said some 40 people were injured in the six counties that bore the brunt of the storms, and that a 7-year-old boy was among those killed.

Six storm-related fatalities were reported by authorities in Tennessee, and an 18-year-old woman was killed in Arkansas when a tree crashed into her house, authorities said.

Thirteen counties in Tennessee suffered severe damage, with a post office destroyed and a state highway washed out, officials said.

Emergency crews in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee searched the ruins of splintered buildings for several people listed as unaccounted for, and scores were reported injured throughout the region.

A rare tornado touched down in Canton, Michigan, and about 15,000 homes in the state and neighboring Wisconsin were without electricity. The National Weather Service posted a warning for gale-force winds on Lake Michigan, where waves were expected to crest at 15 feet (4.6 meters).

About 500 flights were delayed or canceled at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport as Georgia's capital was hit by a thunderstorm.

Meanwhile, much of the Northeast enjoyed balmy weather on Thursday, including New York, which surpassed its record for the warmest Christmas Eve by reaching 71 degrees Fahrenheit (22 Celsius).

Cold and snow were forecast on Christmas Day for much of the U.S. West, including temperatures in the teens in Montana and snow likely in Washington, Oregon, northern California and Nevada.

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