Image: Lightning strikes as a very long line of cars creep down West Swan Lake Road
Jim Hudelson  /  AP
Lightning strikes as a line of cars creeps down a road in Bossier City, La., after storms hit the northwest of the state. Traffic was backed up due to a fire and storm damage in the area.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 10/30/2009 6:50:17 AM ET 2009-10-30T10:50:17

One man is dead and a landmark church steeple toppled onto a car in Louisiana after a line of thunderstorms spawned several tornadoes there and in neighboring Arkansas.

Authorities said an unnamed 20-year-old driver died when his car hit a tree felled by the storms Thursday near Shreveport.

At least three tornadoes touched down in northwest Louisiana.

The storms blew the signature steeple off a church in downtown Shreveport. The falling tower hit a car and the 57-year-old driver, Michael Williams, had to be pulled out by rescuers. He suffered broken bones.

The storms brought heavy rain and at least two tornadoes in Arkansas, but there were no reports of injuries in that state. Roads were flooded in parts of southwest Arkansas.

Power outages
Thousands were without power in Louisiana early Friday, The Shreveport Times reported on its Web site.

Shreveport Police Chief Henry Whitehorn told the Shreveport Times that damage appeared to be widespread, with power lines down in several parts of the city.

Mike Berry, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, said the severe line of thunderstorms brought between 3 and 6 inches of rain in the area. Berry confirmed at least three twisters.

"We are looking at extensive damage throughout our service area," the newspaper quoted Kacee Kirschvink, a spokeswoman for utility company AEP-SWEPCO as saying.

Power lines downed
The company reported 19,737 of its customers without power at the height of the storm, The Shreveport Times said, adding that a fresh round of storms felled more power lines and caused fresh outages later on Thursday.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter in the gym at Platt Elementary School in Haughton.

Tornado warnings forced authorities to cancel events at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds.

In Arkansas, the National Weather Service confirmed a twister at East Camden on Thursday afternoon.

More on: Louisiana

Msnbc.com staff, NBC News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Severe storms tear through the South

  1. Closed captioning of: Severe storms tear through the South

    >>> matt, thank you. now to the severe storms down south and that amazing survival story after a church steeple came crashing down on top of a man's car. nbc's ron mott is in shreveport, louisiana , for us this morning. good morning to you.

    >> reporter: hey, meredith , good morning to you. you can see the weather is still over this area. this car was no match for this giant steeple you see behind me. it fell off the church in one piece, trapping this man inside a mangled mess. and the pastor who says he saw this tornado barrel down on the building says it could have been much worse. firefighters used the jaws of life to rescue a man from a deadly looking scene after a soaring steeple was ripped off a church, crushing his car. the pastor of first united methodist had a front-row seat of the looming disaster.

    >> it started, sounded like a plane was coming near us, and i look out the window and i could see off in the distance a funnel cloud head toward our church.

    >> reporter: when the twister passed seconds later, a downtown shreveport landmark lay scattered in the street while a driver lie trapped in his lexus alive.

    >> immediately rushed up there to see if we could help the person. we could tell he was in very, very bad shape.

    >> reporter: but the man, identified as local artist michael williams , amazingly suffered only minor injuries.

    >> it was miraculous that the man was not killed. if there had been someone in the driver seat beside him, they would have been killed.

    >> reporter: officials say at least one person died in louisiana when a potent line of storms that spawned numerous tornadoes tore across the region thursday, destroying mobile homes , downing trees and knocking out power. it was a day to count blessings, the pastor says, when there were many to tally.

    >> we're very, very fortunate that people were not more severely injured.

    >> reporter: at last report, the 57-year-old driver was in the hospital listed in fair condition and improving. he's obviously got quite a story to tell, meredith .

    >> yeah. a true miracle. ron mott, thank you very much.

    >>> al's upstairs. he's tracking this line of storms for us. al, good morning to you.

    >> good morning, matt and meredith . and this is a very potent system. you can see stretching from the plains all the way down into the gulf coast . behind this system we've got snow. we're talking about quite a bit of snow. take a look right now at this video from colorado, golden, colorado. anywhere from eight inches of snow to two feet of snow have fallen over the last 48 hours . it is finally, though, starting to wind down. and in fact, as we look at our map, show you, there are blizzard warnings in effect, because even though there are minor accumulations still expected, we've got very strong winds. so, those are going to be some big problems. we've got also quite a bit of rain coming down here. as you look, risk area, jackson, mississippi, to tupelo. still the strong possibility of strong storms and tornadoes. we have flood warnings in effect for rain from texas to louisiana , up into indiana. last night there was a dramatic rescue from a woman who tried to drive through an overpass -- or an underpass, i should say. her car got stuck. she tried to back out. it got sucked in. heavy rain causing all those problems. a woman and her son were luckily rescued by a passerby, good samaritan. then rescue crews got them out finally safely. remember, turn around, don't drown. do not try to drive your cars through those kind of waters. you don't know what's going to happen. and we're still looking for another three to four inches of rain before it's all over, especially from memphis all the way down into louisiana . meredith ?

    >> al, thank you very much.

    >>> and now to the economy

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