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NWS: Tornado Damages Mobile, Ala. School

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A woman braves the weather during a heavy rainstorm. (credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GettyImage)

A woman braves the weather during a heavy rainstorm. (credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GettyImage)

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Forecasters say a large tornado is heading for downtown Mobile with tornado watches in effect throughout much of southwestern Alabama.

National Weather Service forecasters say the Mobile area will be under tornado watch until 10 p.m. Tuesday, and the approaching cloud was visible from downtown Mobile around 5:15 p.m.

Forecasters are expecting damage reports as the storm system moves across the state, and information on existing damage was not immediately available.

The storm is part of a severe weather system that has already impacted areas of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Brian Daly, a Mobile-based National Weather Service meteorologist, says forecasters were anticipating EF-2 and EF-3 tornadoes. That is stronger than the EF-1 tornado that hit Alabama Dec. 20, and left 54,700 people without power.

A National Weather Service meteorologist based in Birmingham says a tornado watch is not in effect for the Birmingham area, although forecasters there are expecting damaging winds and hail in central Alabama.

The Mobile Fire Department tweeted that Murphy High School in downtown was damaged and that crews were going door to door to check for injuries. The department also tweeted that power lines and tree limbs were down.

As of 6 p.m., 22,500 customers were without power statewide, 17,500 of them in the Mobile area, Alabama Power reported.

The storm is part of a severe weather system that has already impacted areas of Louisiana and Mississippi and is moving east.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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