Extreme weather moves through several southern US states after causing widespread destruction in the southern US state, officials say.

In this photo provided by Layton Hoyer, a red SUV is seen submerged in floodwater on Old Ritchey Road in Granby, Missouri. Hoyer rescued an elderly woman from the car.
In this photo provided by Layton Hoyer, a red SUV is seen submerged in floodwater on Old Ritchey Road in Granby, Missouri. Hoyer rescued an elderly woman from the car. ([Layton Hoyer via AP])

A powerful tornado has torn through rural Mississippi and Alabama, killing at least seven people, destroying buildings and knocking out power as severe weather that produced hail the size of golf balls moved through several southern states and prompted authorities to warn some in its path that they were in a "life-threatening situation."

The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado caused damage about  96 kilometres northeast of Jackson, Mississippi on Friday night. 

The rural towns of Silver City and Rolling Fork were reporting destruction as the tornado continued sweeping northeast at 113 kph without weakening, racing towards Alabama through towns including Winona and Amory into the night.

The National Weather Service issued an alert as the storm was hitting that didn't mince words: "To protect your life, TAKE COVER NOW!"

“You are in a life-threatening situation,” it warned. "Flying debris may be deadly to those caught without shelter. Mobile homes will be destroyed. Considerable damage to homes, businesses, and vehicles is likely and complete destruction is possible."

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The current Rolling Fork mayor, Eldridge Walker, told WLBT-TV he was unable to get out of his damaged home soon after the tornado hit the town because power lines were down. He said emergency responders were trying to take injured people to hospitals. He did not immediately know how many people had been hurt.

A former mayor of Rolling Fork, Fred Miller, told the television station a tornado blew the windows out of the back of his house.

"Heading to Vicksburg hospital with injured residents of Rolling Fork MS they need emergency personnel NOW," storm chaser Reed Timmer posted on Twitter.

Earlier on Friday a car was swept away and two passengers drowned in southwestern Missouri during torrential rains that were part of a severe weather system. 

Authorities said six young adults were in the vehicle that was swept away as the car tried to cross a bridge over a flooded creek in the town of Grovespring.

Four of the six made it out of the water. The body of Devon Holt, 20, of Grovespring, was found at 3:30 am [local time], and the body of Alexander Roman-Ranelli, 19, of Springfield, was recovered about six hours later, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Thomas Young said.

The driver told authorities that the rain made it difficult to see that water from a creek had covered the bridge, Young said.

READ MORE: Several dead as tornadoes strike southern US

Severe weather expected across several states

Meanwhile, the search continued in another southwestern Missouri county for a woman who was missing after flash flooding from a small river washed a car off the road. 

The Logan Rogersville Fire Protection District said the victim's dog was found safe, but there was no sign of the woman. Two others who were in the car were rescued. Crews planned to use boats and have searchers walking along the riverbank.

When a woman's SUV got swept up in rushing flood waters on Friday morning near Granby, Missouri, Layton Hoyer made his way through icy-cold waters to rescue her. Other rescuers were unable to save her three dogs, authorities said.

Some parts of southern Missouri saw nearly 3 inches of rain on Thursday night and into Friday morning as severe weather hit other areas. A suspected tornado touched down early Friday in north Texas.

Matt Elliott, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said severe weather was expected across several states.

The Storm Prediction Center warned the greatest threat of tornadoes would come in portions of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Storms with damaging winds and hail were forecast from eastern Texas and southeastern Oklahoma into parts of southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois.

More than 28,000 customers had lost power in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee as of Friday night, according to poweroutage.us.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned of potential tornados reaching the state overnight and urged residents to prepare for severe weather, including damaging winds and hail. 

In Texas, a suspected tornado struck about 5 am in the southwest corner of Wise County, damaging homes and downing trees and power lines, said Cody Powell, the county’s emergency management coordinator.

The weather service had not confirmed a tornado, but damage to homes was also reported in neighbouring Parker County, said meteorologist Matt Stalley.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies