As a tornado blew shingles and plywood from his southwestern Neshoba County home early Friday morning, Seth Thompson was waking up his three young children and moving them to safety in a bathroom.

While the tornado destroyed their four poultry houses nearby on Road 224, Thompson was thankful their lives were spared.

No injuries were reported when at least three tornadoes, including one F-2, touched down in Neshoba County, causing major damage to at least six homes.

An F-2 tornado is considered significant with winds estimated between 113 and 157 miles.

In adjoining Kemper County, nine people were injured, five critically, when an F-2 tornado plowed through rural areas a short time later destroying five mobile homes and one modular home, officials said.

Thompson said the strong winds woke him up shortly after 1 a.m.

"It started raining harder and harder and then I started hearing what sounded like a train roaring louder and louder," he said.

Thompson said he got his kids, ages 3, 2, and 6 months, from their beds and headed to the bathroom.

"By the time we got there it was quiet. By the time I woke up and knew what was happening, it was over," he said.

Most of the damage in Neshoba County was in the southwestern section, said emergency management director Jeff Mayo, where six homes also sustained minor damage.

The first tornado touched down in Newton County and entered Neshoba about 1 a.m. cutting a 4.5 mile path, about 300 yards wide.

The tornado destroyed at least eight chicken houses in the two-county area, the National Weather Service in Jackson said in a preliminary report.

Four of those houses belonged to the Thompson family.

"Probably 50 feet out of the 500 feet of chicken houses are still standing," Thompson said, of his family's seven-year poultry business. "Pretty much the whole thing is level."

About 80,000 two-week-old chicks were in the houses.

"We caught probably 40,000, the others are missing in action, blown through the woods and trees," he said.

Numerous trees, both pines and hardwoods, were snapped and uprooted in that same tornado," said Alan E. Gerard, meteorologist in charge. "Three homes suffered damage including one which had about half of its roof taken off and blown several hundred feet away," Gerard said.

The second tornado touched down in Neshoba County about 1:15 a.m. and trekked a northwesterly route along three miles at a width of about 400 yards, Gerard said.

The tornado snapped and uprooted two trees, damaged two homes and damaged or destroyed a number of outbuildings.

The F-2 tornado touched down about 1:25 a.m. northeast of the Tucker community on a 1.2 mile path.

This tornado, with a width of about 150 yards, caused major damage to a brick home, destroyed an outbuilding, picked up a tractor, and snapped, downed and uprooted several trees, Gerard said.

A second F-2 tornado touched down in the Blackwater community of Kemper County about 1:40 a.m., leaving a two-mile path about 250 yards wide.

Gov. Haley Barbour declared a State of Emergency Friday morning after the severe weather system caused damage in at least four other counties including Harrison, Jones, Lowndes, and Stone late Thursday and early Friday.

"I directed the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency to move quickly to assess the damage from this powerful storm system and to offer every possible assistance to local governments as they respond," Barbour said. "My declaration of a state of emergency was a necessary first step in the process."

The governor's action will allow state resources to be used throughout the affected areas to assist local governments as they respond to this disaster, said MEMA Director Mike Womack.

The Board of Supervisors also declared a state of emergency.

Neshoba County was placed under a tornado watch about 11 p.m. followed by a severe thunderstorm warning at 1 a.m. The county went under a tornado warning at 1:07 a.m.

In all, six homes were destroyed or sustained major damage; six homes had minor damage; and seven agricultural buildings were either destroyed or sustained major damage.

A fifth chicken house was damaged on Road 224 while structural damage was reported to homes along Roads 224, 111, 210, 127, 339, 341 and 2214, Mayo said.

The county road department and volunteer firefighters cleared roads of trees and debris while workmen from Central Electric Power Association worked to restore power.

Damage was also reported along Mississippi 486 where a roof was blown from a house, Mayo said. Debris also blocked traffic on and around Roads 725 and 2448.

District 4 Supervisor Mike Moorehead drove through his district shortly after the storm system moved out.

Most of the roads were cleared by daylight, he said, noting that workmen were clearing right-of-way Friday morning.

"The county workers were out and the fire departments, including Dixon and Linwood," Moorehead said. "We couldn't make it without them."

There were no reports of fatalities during the storms that began late Thursday and left scattered damage in at least seven counties, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Damage reported in other counties included:

• Harrison: one home with major damage, one with minor damage and six agricultural buildings damaged.

• Jones: one home destroyed.

• Lowndes: 13 homes with minor roof damage and one tree fell onto a car, but no injuries reported.

• Newton County: one home with major damage, six with minor damage and five agricultural buildings damaged.

• Stone: four homes with major damage and one business destroyed, one business with major damage and four businesses with minor damage.

Key Chapter Red Cross volunteers were dispatched in response to Kemper, Newton and Neshoba counties Friday where staff and volunteers were working with county emergency management teams to assess damages and provide emergency Red Cross assistance.

Emergency shelter, food, clothes, health care and mental health services are being provided to victims of the tornados.

"This is what we do," Key Chapter executive director Cheri Barry said Friday. "We have trained and dedicated staff and volunteers who have been at work since 2 a.m. to meet the emergency needs of our clients and we'll be here around the clock until those needs are met."