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Storms hit soggy Louisiana, death reported

Severe storms with damaging winds and possible tornadoes pounded the South, killing at least one person in Louisiana and shattering windows at the Texas Capitol.
Storms Capitol
This was among the trees uprooted Thursday on the grounds of the Texas Capitol in Austin by an early-morning storm.Harry Cabluck / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Severe storms with damaging winds and possible tornadoes pounded the South, killing at least one person in Louisiana and shattering windows at the Texas Capitol.

In the southern Louisiana town of Grosse Tete, a pecan tree fell onto a camper Thursday, killing a 77-year-old man alone inside it. In nearby St. Martin Parish, a minor injury was reported in a house knocked off its blocks.

"From the first reports we believe it was a tornado that went through during the storm," said Maj. Ginny Higgins of the St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Department.

An overnight storm also knocked down several large trees at the Texas Capitol in Austin and blew out windows in the dome. Broken glass damaged a portrait of the state's first lieutenant governor, Albert Horton.

Some schools in Louisiana canceled classes, and there were reports of minor flooding throughout the region as already-soaked earth could absorb no more rain. City workers in Hammond filled sandbags for people to use at home.

The storm had winds higher than 45 mph and dumped as much as 4 inches of rain, said Jim Vasilj, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

There were reports of trees downed in parts of southern Mississippi, which closed some roads briefly. In Louisiana, possible tornadoes were reported near Folsom and Pontchatoula in addition to the report in St. Martin Parish, Vasilj said.

The worst of the stormy weather, which prompted flash flood watches, minor flooding in areas and slick conditions during morning drives, moved on to Alabama. The weather service issued a flood warning there as streams rose.

Record-breaking rainfall began late Tuesday. In northwestern Louisiana, officials reported that more than 10 inches of rain deluged the Shreveport area, flooding at least 125 homes.

Golf-ball-size hail also was reported as a thunderstorm moved across southeastern Louisiana, said Phil Grigsby, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

"It's one of the most intense storms we've had down here in quite a few years," he said.

About 12,000 people in Louisiana lacked power Thursday morning, Cleco Corp. spokeswoman Susan Broussard said. The utility hoped to restore electricity Thursday but was also getting reports of new failures after storms rolled across central Louisiana, she said.

In St. Tammany Parish, there were several reports of flooded roads, and trees down Wednesday. "Virtually every major road had trees across it," said Capt. George Bonnett of the sheriff's office.

Numerous roads were closed in the Shreveport region as well, along with the gates at Barksdale Air Force Base. Deputies checked houses for stranded residents in southern Caddo Parish, where floods cut off normal street access.

Shreveport's director of operational services, Mike Strong, said the city's drainage system was functioning but was inundated by rain.