KENNER, La.- A deadly cyclone system that spawned tornadoes in Gulf Coast states Tuesday night was expected to bring severe climate to the Carolinas by Wednesday afternoon.
The Tuesday storms mangled trailers at an RV park, ripped roofs from builds and killed at least three people in Louisiana and Mississippi, authorities said.
One of the hardest-hit areas in the Gulf Coast appeared to be a recreational vehicle park in the town of Convent, in southern Louisiana. Two people were killed there, said St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin, speaking on local television. Authorities were working into the early morning to look for people perhaps trapped under the dust, Martin said.
Thirty-one people were taken to area hospitals and seven of them were in critical condition, he said.
“We never had anything like this; we never had this many people injured in one event, and so much demolition in one event, ” Martin told WVUE news. “We won’t stop searching until we’re fulfilled we’ve searched every pile.”
Martin said three people were still believed to be missing but efforts to account for them were hampered because authorities didn’t know how many people were at the park when the storm reached or how many people were taken to hospitals in private vehicles.
Jerome Picou, who lives near the park, said just before the tornado made that it was raining and the skies grew darknes. Then he heard what voiced like a freight train.
“The wind was blowing a little bit, but then it stopped. Then all of a sudden all kinds of gust and rainfall started. It was so bad, I had to go inside the house or I would have been blown away with it, ” Picou said.
In Alabama and Georgia, forecasters issued flash flood watches ahead of the blizzard system, which was expected to drop 1 to 2 inches of rainfall. The warns were expected to be in effect through Wednesday afternoon. The northern part of Georgia was also under a gale advisory.
The Wednesday forecast for the Carolinas calls for possible flash flooding and severe thunderstorms, including damaging gales, hail and isolated tornadoes.
Raleigh forecasters said straight-line wind gusts may be particularly strong, reaching 70 mph or greater.
News outlets in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida reported that schools in those states canceled Wednesday classes ahead of the cyclone threat.
In Mississippi, officials Tuesday night were sorting through reports of damage to some builds, but Vann Byrd of the Lamar County Emergency Management Agency said one person died in a mobile home west of Purvis. Lamar County Coroner Cody Creel said that Dale Purvis, 73, died of blunt-force trauma.
The reported tornadoes are part of a line of severe climate and storms that rent through the region.
At least seven tornadoes reached southeast Louisiana and southwest Mississippi, said Ken Graham, the meteorologist in charge for the National Weather Service’s southeast Louisiana office.
That number includes the one in Convent and near Purvis, Mississippi, he said. Teams will be sent out in the morning to document the damage and rate the tornadoes, he said.
The harsh weather even affected the National Weather Service, Graham said. At one point the staff in the Slidell office took shelter because a tornado was nearby, and lightning took out the office’s radar, forced into to use backup, he said.
“We felt the shockwave run through the building, ” Graham said.
In Florida, the National Weather Service said a tornado hitting Pensacola. Meteorologist Steve Miller said the service has had many reports of property damage and people injured in cyclones Tuesday night.
Reported tornadoes and severe weather caused damage in other parts of both states.
A reported tornado caused some injury but no traumata near New Orleans’ main airport, while high winds ripped off roof and downed trees around the greater New Orleans area. Other suspected tornadoes were reported north of Lake Pontchartrain and west of the city in St. Charles and Ascension parishes and in Prairieville, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, heavy damage was reported to some builds, including a fitness gym.
Ronald Myers lives across the street from New Mount Bethel Baptist Church in Kenner, Louisiana, just outside of New Orleans. He recalled the sky darkening and high winds — he believes it was a tornado. He and his wife came outside when they heard the church’s alarm come off. High gales sheared the brick and mortar from the rear wall of the church.
“My wife came over to turning the alarm off and she came back home and said,` Baby, the wall behind the church has done fell down, “‘ said Myers. He said he struggled to keep his footing in the wind, and it virtually knocked his wife down.
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