updated 12/11/2008 10:13:06 AM ET 2008-12-11T15:13:06

A night of unseasonably warm weather generated torrential rains and tornadoes that damaged two schools and dozens of homes in the South, where snow began to fall in some areas Wednesday after temperatures dropped.

At least one person was injured in south Mississippi when a car on Interstate 59 struck a tree downed by the wave of storms that raked the region starting Tuesday night, authorities said. At least 39 houses and mobile homes were damaged in Mississippi as well as three businesses.

Classes were canceled when an apparent tornado ripped off part of the roof of an elementary school in Walker County, Ala., northwest of Birmingham. The storm also damaged more than a dozen homes there.

There were reports of damaged homes and trees on roadways across Mississippi and reports of large hail.

Meanwhile, light snow fell late Wednesday in western Louisiana, the National Weather Service said. Heavier precipitation was expected to the east, and forecasters predicted as much as 3-5 inches of snow in central Mississippi beginning early Thursday, said National Weather Service forecaster Lynn Burse. Mississippi averages around 2 inches of snow a year.

Heavy rain caused minor flooding in western Tennessee and 3.44 inches had fallen in Jackson by Wednesday morning, with another 3.5 inches in Memphis and 2.21 inches at Dyersburg, the National Weather Service reported. Heavy rain and possible high winds were predicted across north Georgia Wednesday and into the day on Thursday.

Such heavy storms develop about once in the region this time of year, said Mike Leary, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City.

"You get a big influx of Gulf moisture that's really quite warm," he said. "That sets up instability in combination with the cold front coming down."

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