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Severe storms, large hail cause extensive damage in South

Rogelio V. Solis / AP

Golf ball-sized hail litter the ground by Andrew Stamps and his wife Valorie as they prepare to cover their shattered rear window of her 2009 Toyota Avalon in Pearl, Miss., Monday, March 18, 2013, following a hailstorm that hit communities throughout central Mississippi.

Southern states mopped up on Tuesday after a massive storm packing high winds, rain, and fist-sized hail moved across the region, causing substantial damage to homes and vehicles in parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.

The storm caused two deaths in Georgia, said Georgia Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Crystal Paulk-Buchanan on Tuesday, and eight people were injured. One person died in Polk County when a tree fell on a car; the second was killed in Talbot County after a vehicle swerved to avoid a downed tree. Numerous homes were damaged by the hail and some local roads remained shut down.

Two tornadoes were confirmed in Tennessee near the towns of McEwen and Murfreesboro, the Weather Channel reported.

Gusts in northern Mississippi were clocked as high as 77 miles per hour, and 17 counties reported substantial damage from the storm, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

“What I found interesting is that hail is the threat that we don’t talk about that much,” MEMA spokesman Jeff Rent told the Associated Press. “But you can see how destructive it can be in a short amount of time. We got a tough lesson today.”

The winds made a plaything of one man’s tractor-trailer as it crossed a bridge in northeast Mississippi, picking the big rig up and laying the container portion of the truck on the road below. The truck’s cab remained on the bridge above.

“The wind just gently picked me up and made me go across the of the bridge banister,” truck driver Joe Sisk told local NBC affiliate WLBT. “And it just laid over on its side, just as pretty as you’d please, as gentle as possible.”

An elementary school in Clinton, Miss., was closed on Tuesday after roofs over nearly all its classrooms were ventilated by hail.

“It was baseball-sized hail, and it didn’t start out little,” Clinton resident Jean Weiss told local paper the Clarion-Ledger. “It started out big. People’s back windows were being broken out at our office, and all of our cars have dents in them.”

Eighteen counties reported “moderate to major damage” to residences and businesses in Alabama, according to the state’s emergency management agency.

The storm pulled down trees and power lines in Alabama and Georgia, cutting off electricity for thousands of people into Tuesday.

Georgia Power reported 21,700 customers without power on Tuesday, and Georgia EMC said an additional 11,691 were in the dark. Alabama Power said 103,000 of its customers were without electricity.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.