Two by two, the tandem skydivers leapt into the clouds over southern Mississippi, a routine plunge from thousands of feet in the air.
James "Jimmie" Horak Jr. and his student were the last out of the plane Saturday morning. A videographer captured the moment when the veteran instructor opened his parachute, shifting a rapid freefall into a slow descent.
But something tragic happened in the final seconds of the drop. Horak, 66, and his student never landed at the airport where they were supposed to.
Instead, Horak's body was found in heavy mud in a swampy wooded area about a mile from the airport in Lumberton, Lamar County's sheriff said.FULL STORY
A murder suspect in Jackson, Mississippi, overpowered a detective and shot him with the detective's gun before killing himself, Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain said Friday.
Veteran detective Eric Smith, 40, was talking with suspect Jeremy Powell, 23, when other officers heard the shots and rushed into the interview room at the police station, said Chris Mims, a spokesman for Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson.FULL STORY
A veteran detective and the murder suspect he was interviewing were killed Thursday, following an outburst of gunfire inside the Jackson, Mississippi, police headquarters.
The detective was talking with the suspect when an altercation broke out and shots were fired, Othor Cain, a spokesman for the Hinds County Sheriff's Department, told CNN.
Other law enforcement officers overheard the gunshots and rushed into the room, said a shaken Chris Mims, a spokesman for Mayor Harvey Johnson.
Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn has invited gunmakers such as Colt to relocate to his state from Connecticut, where firearms have been a controversial issue since last December's elementary school shooting left 20 students and six adults dead there.
The gun industry in Connecticut is being attacked and "demonized" because of national politics, Gunn said in a letter this week to Colt's Manufacturing Company CEO Dennis Veilleux.
He also invited gunmaker Magpul Industries Corp. of Colorado to relocate to Mississippi.
Gunn, a Republican, said firearm manufacturers are "under attack in anti-Second Amendment states."FULL STORY
A tornado has caused at least three injuries and damaged structures in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, officials there say.
At 5:28 p.m. CT, Terry Steed from the Emergency Management District in Hattiesburg confirmed that a tornado was on the ground in Hattiesburg and that there was damage. Brett Carr with the Mississippi Emergency
Management Agency in Marion County said at least three people were injured.
A Mississippi man pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal hate crime charge in connection with a group of young men and teenagers that carried out racial attacks against African-Americans in 2011.
Joseph Dominick, 21, from Brandon, entered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Mississippi, to one count of conspiracy to commit federal hate crimes.
Dominick and others began in the spring of 2011 to harass and assault African-Americans in Jackson and the surrounding area, according to the FBI.
In one case, Dominick was part of a group that used a sling shot to hurl metal ball bearings at several African-Americans, a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice said. The young men also threw glass beer bottles at African-Americans, the news release said.
On June 25, 2011, Dominick attended a party in Puckett, about 45 minutes from Jackson, where members of the group discussed going to the Mississippi capital to find African-Americans to harass, authorities said. While seven white men went in two trucks that night to Jackson, Dominick wasn't among them.
James Craig Anderson, 47, a black man, died after he was beaten and run over in the early morning hours of June 26, 2011. The truck was driven by Deryl Dedmon, a member of the group, prosecutors said.
Refresh this page for the latest updates or read the full CNN story here.
[Updated 10:28 p.m. ET]
[Updated 10:20 p.m. ET] Water that overtopped levees was trapped in Plaquemines Parish with nowhere to drain. Officials were considering intentionally breaching a levee downstream to allow some of the floodwater to flow back out of the inundated area, Gov. Bobby Jindal said.
Parish President Billy Nungesser said parish officials will go out at low tide to check the back levee - a second line of defense - at the town of Braithwaite and determine where to punch holes in it. It will be Saturday, at the earliest, before crews can cut the levee open, letting water flow out into the marsh.
[Updated 10 p.m. ET]
[Updated 9:52 a.m. ET]Â New Orleans officials said there had been 12 incidents of looting. Police said arrests were made in each case, but didn't specify how many people were involved.
[Updated 9:48 p.m. ET] Lake Pontchartrain's water levels are "beginning to stabilize," St. Tammany Parish officials said, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Water had spilled out from the lake and flooded low-lying areas of the parish.
Rescues continue in areas around the vast Louisiana lake, including Lewisburg, Guste Island, Lacombe and Slidell, the newspaper's website reported.
[Updated 9:29 p.m. ET] Joey Amann gathered family and friends into his home in Hancock County, Mississippi, to ride out the storm, he told CNN affiliate WALA.
"You know, we just figured we'd be safer in numbers. Since our house is eight feet off the ground, we figured we'd be safer there but the water just kept coming," Amann said.
"It was scary. I mean, I've never seen the water raise this fast on this road and I've been here all my life. It just came out of nowhere."
The group ended up being rescued by emergency personnel in boats.
Amann told the station he lost his home to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"Thirty-six years I've lived here, and it's just devastating," he said. "Seven years ago, we were going through the same thing. No one thought it would be this bad, but it's worse than we anticipated."
Governments, business and residents in New Orleans and the central Gulf coast rushed Tuesday to complete last-minute preparations to bear the brunt of HurricaneÂ Isaac.
The storm made initial landfall Tuesday evening as a Category 1 hurricane after graduating from tropical storm status Tuesday afternoon.
[Updated 11:29 p.m. ET]
[Updated 11:11 p.m. ET] Hurricane Isaac is "producing a dangerous storm surge" along the northern Gulf Coast, the National Hurricane Center said in its 11 p.m. ET update. Flooding from heavy rainfall will follow the storm surge, the NHC said.
At 11 p.m. ET, the storm's center of circulation was about 75 southeast of Houma, Louisiana, or 75 miles south-southeast of New Orleans, still moving at 8 mph with 80 mph maximum sustained winds.
[Updated 11:01 p.m. ET] Designer John Nelson created this fascinating and oddly beautiful visualization of every hurricane recorded since 1851. It's reproduced by Fast Company.
The image takes some getting used to, as it employs a southern polar projection; that is, Antarctica is in the center of the picture, with the other continents extending away from it. Hovering your mouse over the map enlarges an area so you can see greater detail.
[Updated 10:45 p.m. ET] Tropical Depression 11 rapidly intensified Tuesday evening and became the 11th named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, Tropical Storm Kirk, the National Hurricane Center said. Kirk is located in the middle Atlantic and is not likely to become a threat to land.
[Updated 10:40 p.m. ET] Utility companies in four states report more than 200,000 customers have lost power because of Hurricane Isaac, all but 1,000 of them in Louisiana.
Thousands of people on the Gulf Coast have been told to leave ahead of Tropical Storm Isaac. Forecasters warn the storm will gain strength and is following the path Hurricane Katrina took seven years ago.
The tropical storm was expected to make landfall late Tuesday or Wednesday, coinciding with the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, though as a much weaker Category 1 hurricane, compared with 2005's monster storm.
Read the full CNN.com story here.
[Updated 5 a.m. ET Tuesday]Â Isaac is still a tropical storm and is located 125 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving northwest at 12 mph.
[Updated 4:35 a.m. ET Tuesday]Â The top sustained winds early Tuesday morning are 70 mph. The storm is expected to become a hurricane today.
[Updated 11:17 p.m. ET] The National Hurricane Center projected storm surges of 3 to 6 feet for the Florida Panhandle, 6 to 9 feet for the Alabama coast and 6 to 12 feet for the Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana shores.
[Updated 10:02 p.m. ET] Here's another way people can help their neighbors, at this location and others:
[Updated 9:54 p.m. ET] Mandatory evacuations are under way in the low-lying coastal areas of Mississippi's Hancock County, which includes Bay St. Louis and Waveland.
Informed and prepared. They're theÂ two things you want to be if youâre in the path of a tropical storm or hurricane.
Some preparations for storms like Isaac, the tropical storm making its way toward the U.S. Gulf Coast, can begin (ideally) months ahead of time or within hours of its expected landfall.
But knowing how to react and whether to evacuate requires that you stay informed of the stormâs progress by tuning into local television and radio stations â preferably, with a battery-powered radio. You can buy a battery-powered NOAA radio that tunes in to special Weather Radio frequencies.
While the power is still on, people can find the most recent information on the storm's movementÂ on the National Hurricane Center's Isaac advisory page. You can also get NHC updates on your mobile phone. Other useful apps can be found for iPhone at the App Store and for Android devices at the Google Play Store.
Some states keep general information about hurricane preparedness on their websites, including Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Here's a state-by-state breakdown of Isaac's impacts. Many towns, counties and parishes keep information on their websites regarding the storm's progress, evacuation procedures, shelters and suspension of services. Some use Twitter and/or Facebook to postÂ real-time updates. Below are just a few municipal websites that CNN.com has identified, though the list is not exhaustive:
Develop an evacuation plan tailored to your familyâs vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind. Locate a safe room or the safest areas in your home for each hurricane hazard. If the safest areas are not in your home, locate safe areas or buildings in your community and listen to local news for announcements on schools, shelters or designated safe areas. Determine an escape route from your home and places to meet in case family members become separated.
If your family hurricane plan includes immediate evacuation because of the location or conditions of your home, the National Hurricane Center recommends that you do not delay your departure. You may want to evacuate ahead of official orders to avoid travel delays or traffic congestion. Pick a location as close to your home as possible. If itâs a motel or hotel, make a reservation before you leave to ensure space. If you have a pet, this may be your best bet, as many shelters do not accept pets.
Before you leave, make sure you have an out-of-state friend as a family contact, so all your family members have a single point of contact.
Securing your home includes putting away anything surrounding the home that the wind can pick up: bicycles, lawn furniture and decorations and branches, to name a few. Seal all your windows and doors, and if you donât have hurricane shutters, board up windows with plywood. Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure to reduce roof damage.
The National Hurricane Center has tips for preparing yourself and your home for a storm and coping with its aftermath, as well as assembling a plan and emergency kit.
Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed. Close off propane tanks.
Whether you ride out the storm in your home or evacuate, youâll want to have a disaster supply kit at the ready that includes these items, according to the National Hurricane Center:
– Water: At leastÂ one gallon daily per person for three to seven days
– Food: At least enough forÂ three toÂ seven days nonperishable packaged or canned food and juices, snack foods.
– Eating supplies: Nonelectric can opener, cooking tools, disposable plates and utensils.
– Flashlights and extra batteries, radio
– Baby supplies: Bottle, formula, baby food, diapers.
– Toiletries: Hygiene items, moisture wipes, etc.
– Bedding: Blankets and pillows, etc.
– Clothing: Seasonal clothes, rain gear, sturdy shoes.
– First aid/medical: Pain relievers, bandages, splints, insect repellant, sunscreen, seven-day supply of prescription drugs, hearing aids with extra batteries, eyeglasses.
– Modern necessities: Fully charged cell phone with extra battery and a telephone set with a cord, cash in small bills, extra sets of house and car keys,
– Important documents in a waterproof container: Passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.
More tips can be found here.
The "mighty Mississippi" has lost some of its might with the season's epic drought taking its toll on river levels, which are falling to near historic lows.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will spend nearly $7 million dredging in an attempt to keep ports operational and keep the river open for barge traffic in the coming weeks. River levels in Memphis have dropped to within three feet of their historic lows from the 1988 drought.
In just one year, the river has gone through extreme fluctuation. Last May, it was within a foot of its record-high crest because of massive flooding, and today it's 55 feet lower and experiencing historic lows due to drought.
Dramatic images taken from NASAâs Terra satellite show the swollen river in late April of last year compared with images from early July this year. The expanse of the water was over 3 miles wide in parts of Missouri and Arkansas as levees were blown up in order to help protect the town of Cairo, Illinois from flood waters. The image taken July 2012 this year shows a much different story with the river less than a half mile wide in spots.
New data from U.S. Drought Monitor issued Thursday shows the drought has worsened in the past week, and now ranks as the second worst drought in U.S. history over the lower 48 since records began in 1895.
Nearly 64% of the contiguous United States is now in moderate to exceptional drought, second only to the summer of 1934, the height of the dust bowl era. Nearly 40% of the corn crop is now considered in poor or very poor condition, and this went up a sharp 8% in only a week.
During the 2012 crop year, the U.S. Department ofÂ Agriculture (USDA) has designated 1,297 counties across 29 states asÂ disaster areas, making all qualified farm operators in the areasÂ eligible for low-interest emergency loans. And on Monday the USDA designated 39 additional counties in eight states as primaryÂ natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by drought andÂ excessive heat.
A dozen states on Thursday were under some sort of heat advisory or warning, many of them over the worst-hit drought areas.Â The heat wave is expected to last through much of the weekend, which means conditions will likely continue to worsen over the coming weeks.
And the Army Corps said that the shrinking of the Mississippi means that saltwater is beginning to work its way upriver, which could threaten some water supplies.
That's not unprecedented, and there's no current threat to water supplies, but officials are prepared to start building an underwater barrier to block the denser saltwater from moving further upstream, Corps spokesman Ricky Boyett said Friday. The Corps last had to do that in 1999, he said.
Doctors at Mississippi's sole abortion clinic are allowed to continue performing the procedure, even if they do not have admitting and staff privileges at an area hospital, as required by a new state law, a federal judge ruled Friday.
But state officials can begin an administrative process that could ultimately lead to the closing of the clinic, said U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III.
The law took effect July 1 and requires all abortion providers in Mississippi to be certified obstetrician/gynecologists with privileges at local hospitals. Doctors at Jackson Women's Health Organization, the only abortion provider in the state, come in from other states, and only one of its doctors is authorized to practice at a nearby hospital.
Supporters of the new law say it is intended to protect women from unscrupulous practitioners, but others say it's part of a move to outlaw abortions in the state.
Authorities said early Monday they had put down a prison riot that claimed the life of a guard as it continued into the late evening Sunday.
A 23-year-old guard died of head injuries in the disturbance at the Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, Mississippi, according to county coroner James Lee.
It was not immediately clear what prompted the riot, which began about 2:40 p.m. (3:40 p.m. ET) Sunday, officials said.FULL STORY
A prison guard was killed and several employees injured Sunday in a riot at the Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, Mississippi, officials said.
The 23-year-old guard appeared to suffer "blunt trauma to the head," said Adams County Coroner James Lee.
The riot, which began about 2:40 p.m., was ongoing Sunday night, the facility said in a statement. Local and state law enforcement officials as well as authorities from the Federal Bureau of Prisons were helping the facility quell the violence.
"The disturbance is contained within the secure perimeter of the facility, with no threat to public safety," the statement said.
Five employees and one inmate were taken to a hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries, while additional staff members were being treated at the prison.
The cause of the incident is under investigation.FULL STORY
Mississippi authorities are questioning a man suspected of impersonating a police officer to determine whether he is involved in the killings of two motorists on state highways, a sheriff's investigator said Thursday.
The man was picked up after stopping two drivers, Humphreys County Sheriff Investigator Sam Dobbins told CNN. He was driving a blue Mercury Marquis that used to be a police car and still had flashing blue lights on top, Dobbins said.
Investigators had raised the possibility that someone posing as a police officer is to blame for the shootings, which happened this month about 55 miles apart.
In the first incident, Tom Schlender, 74, was found dead in his car about 1:30 a.m. in the median of an interstate highway last week. A few days later, Lori Anne Carswell, 48, was found dead outside her car on the shoulder of a state highway.
Because of the places where the drivers were found, and because nothing was found wrong with their cars, authorities say it's possible someone posing as a police officer may have signaled to the drivers to pull over.
Authorities say the victims did not know each other.FULL STORY
Editor's note: This post is part of theÂ Overheard on CNN.comÂ series, a regular featureÂ that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
Authorities think someone might be posing as a police officer, pulling cars over on highways and then killing the drivers. There's already been two incidents in Mississippi and one of the victims, Tom Schlender, 74, was found dead inside his car with his wallet missing. Readers have shared many thoughts on next steps for people who get pulled over.
Authorities advise drivers who are feeling uneasy to call 911 and verify that a legitimate officer is pulling them over or drive to a well-lit, crowded place before stopping. These actions are permitted under Mississippi state law.
"Doesn't everyone feel uneasy when being pulled over?" asked JamesC.
Readers were nervous about whether officers would understand what they are doing.
Richard Glover: "Let me know how 'driving to a well-lit, crowded place' works out for you when a cop is trying to pull you over, only thing I could say is it better not be too far of a drive or you may get shot by a real cop ..."
NotlooknGood: "If I get sirened by a cop in Northern Mississippi right now, I am putting on my flashers and driving 'til I find a safe place to pull over. As long as you don't speed off, the cop will understand your actions once you explain it yourself. Plus, I'm sure the law enforcement have been informed that drivers will be doing this."
rushthis: "How do we know a real cop isn't doing the killing?"
What if things don'tÂ go as planned? FULL POST
[Updated at 10:45 a.m. ET] Police have arrested three more people in their investigation of the kidnappings of Jo Ann Bain and her daughters, a law enforcement source said Friday. The arrests are for making a false statement and illegal possession of a firearm, the source said. Bain and one daughter were found dead several days ago. Two other daughters were found alive Thursday night.
Also, a law enforcement source said Bain and her oldest daughter were strangled to death.
[Posted at 10:15 a.m. ET] A tip from a caller led the FBI to the place where fugitive Adam Mayes shot and killed himself - all within sight of the two young girls he had been holding captive, the agency said Friday.
When investigators came upon Mayes, "the girls were on their stomach face down. They were close enough to see what was going on when he killed himself," FBI spokesman Jason Pack said.
Alexandria Bain, 12, and Kyliyah Bain, 8, were tended to by two female agents who rode with them in an ambulance to the hospital.
"They were scared and relieved," Pack said. "They were hungry and thirsty. They gave them water and we drove them out right away."
The tip authorities received was not that someone had spotted Mayes, but that there was an old logging cabin behind a church that might have power and would be a good hiding place.
The area had been searched before by agents, but it was searched again.
There is no evidence that Mayes and the girls actually used the cabin, but they were believed to have been in the area for a few days, he said.
"There was no shelter or anything. It looks like they were in the open woods," Pack said. "They were dehydrated and dirty, like they were here for several days."
[Update 9:52 p.m. ET] Adam Mayes - accused of murder and kidnapping in a case involving a Tennessee mother and her three daughters - has died, said FBI spokesman Joel Siskovic. There have been conflicting reports about Mayes since he was found after suffering an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound Thursday night in Union County, Mississippi.
[Update 9:43 p.m. ET] Two federal law enforcement sources now say that Adam Mayes - accused of murder and kidnapping in a case involving a Tennessee mother and her three daughters - was alive after suffering an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound Thursday night in Union County, Mississippi. One of those sources had previously said that Mayes was dead. A different law enforcement source had also stated that Mayes was dead. The two surviving sisters "are suffering from the experience of being out in the woods and from being kidnapped. They are suffering from dehydration and exhaustion, but appear OK," a federal law enforcement source at the scene told CNN.
[Earlier] Adam Mayes, accused of murder and kidnapping in a case involving a Tennessee mother and her three daughters, was found dead Thursday in Union County, Mississippi, and the two girls he allegedly kidnapped were found alive, two law enforcement sources said. The girls' sister and mother were found dead last Friday after being killed by Mayes, according to authorities.FULL STORY
Three Tennessee sisters "may be in extreme danger" after allegedly being abducted late last month by their mother and a man possibly carrying a gun, the state bureau of investigation said Saturday.
An Amber Alert was issued Saturday for the siblings - 14-year-old Adrienne Bain, 12-year-old Alexandra Bain and 8-year-old Kyliyah Bain. They were last seen April 27 in Whiteville, a town of about 4,600 people in western Tennessee.
The possibly armed male suspect, Adam Mayes, cut his own hair and may have done the same to the three children, according to the Amber Alert from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The 35-year-old man - who has blue eyes and brown hair, weighs about 175 pounds and stands 6 feet, 3 inches tall - was last seen May 1 in Guntown, Mississippi.FULL STORY