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JACKSON, Mississippi - President Barack Obama has declared a federal disaster in Mississippi following a massive tornado that heavily damaged a college campus and damaged or destroyed more than 800 homes in the southern part of the state.

Obama signed the declaration Wednesday and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in counties affected by Sunday's tornado and resulting severe weather. The National Weather Service says the tornado had maximum winds of 170 mph and forged a path three-quarters of a mile wide.

Officials estimate it will take tens of millions of dollars to repair damage at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

The College Board voted unanimously Wednesday to allow Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds to sign contracts and take other actions without board approval to help the 16,000-student school recover.

JEFF AMY, Associated Press