KEITHVILLE, La. (AP) — A storm system that spawned dozens of reported tornadoes from East Texas to the Florida Panhandle nearly wiped out the South Thursday after killing at least three people and uprooting families in Louisiana, where some houses were blown up. in pieces.
Elsewhere, heavy snow and strong winds meant more snowstorms in the northern Midwest from the Dakotas to Michigan, and more ice and snow caused problems in places from Appalachian Mountains to New England.
It can take days for the National Weather Service to confirm if the destructive winds were in fact tornadoes, but the impact was clear in places like Caddo Parish, Louisiana, where a man went out to do some shopping and returned to find his mobile home was missing and with her. , his wife and his son.
“You go looking for a house and the house isn’t even there, so where do you look?” Gov. John Bel Edwards said as he walked the mile-long path of destruction in rural Keithville, south of Shreveport.
The body of 8-year-old Nikolus Little was found in the woods. The body of his mother, Yoshiko A. Smith, 30, was discovered later, under storm debris. “She just went shopping for her family, she came home and the house was gone,” said Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Sgt. Casey Jones said.
Another Keithville man, William Walls, said a tornado picked up his home and hurled it into his brother’s house next door when he found himself trapped outside on his brother’s back porch. Videos he posted on Facebook show the shredded remains.
“This is my house,” Walls said. “I saw him pick up my trailer and dump it in there.”
An outpouring of support was evident in Union Parish, near the Arkansas line, where a gym was busy with volunteers and survivors going through piles of donated clothing. Farmerville Mayor John Crow said an apartment complex where 50 families lived was badly damaged, a neighboring trailer park with about 10 homes was leveled and about 30 homes were damaged along nearby Lake D’Arbonne.
Patsy Andrews of Farmerville fought back tears as she described how she survived with her daughter, son and baby. A strange wind blew open the front door and her son barely managed to lock it when her daughter received a tornado watch and yelled at them to get down, she said.
“By the time we landed on the ground, all we could hear was ‘Pow Pow!’ like gunshots,” as his windows were smashed, she said. “We were crawling, it was dark and my baby was on the sofa, he was asleep. … We thought we had lost it. So my son went and grabbed him off the couch, because he was still exploding like glass.”
“The only thing we knew how to do was just cry, we were screaming, just calling on Jesus. We pushed the bathroom door open and somehow you guys, it was nobody but God, you all grabbed us, we jumped into the tub. All we could do was pray. It was very devastating.”
“Fortunately, everyone in our community is safe. I like how we come together,” Andrews said, looking around the gym. “Now we have to step up for our own city. And I think that’s the best thing, because it shows people, it shows that people love you, it shows that people care.”
Possible tornadoes also struck parts of New Orleans and its neighboring parishes. A woman was found dead and eight people were hospitalized with injuries in St. Charles Parish after a suspected tornado struck the Killona community along the Mississippi River.
“She was outside the residence, so we don’t know exactly what happened,” St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said of the slain woman. “There was debris everywhere. She could have been hit. We don’t know for sure. But this was a horrible, very violent tornado.”
Other potential tornadoes struck Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes, including areas heavily damaged by a march tornado. St. Bernard Sheriff Jimmy Pohlman said the latest damage from the tornado covered a stretch of about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers). Parish President Guy McInnis said the damage was less than in the March tornado, though numerous roofs were destroyed or damaged.
New Orleans Emergency Director Collin Arnold said businesses and residences in the city suffered significant wind damage, primarily on the west bank of the river. A house collapsed, injuring four people. “The last thing we had is that they were stable,” Arnold said.
Five others were injured in New Iberia, Louisiana, where a possible tornado smashed windows at the Iberia Medical Center, the hospital said.
And in Mississippi, a suspected tornado destroyed four large chicken coops, one holding 5,000 roosters, Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey said, and wrecked mobile homes at a park in Sharkey County.
Some 10,000 customers were without power in Louisiana and more than 100,000 were without power in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility outages. Forecasters expect more blizzard conditions in parts of the upper Midwest, and ice and snow from the central Appalachians to the northeast. The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch through Friday afternoon. Residents from West Virginia to Vermont were told to watch for a possible significant mix of snow, ice and sleet.
McGill reported from New Orleans.
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