Tornadoes plowed across the South from Texas to Alabama overnight, killing four people, wrecking homes and businesses in rural areas and the New Orleans suburbs, and turning trees to kindling.
The violent weather was part of a system that had drenched Texas for four days, pushing rivers out of their banks and forcing people out of their homes.
A line of tornadoes skipped through Alabama early Wednesday, damaging homes and knocking down trees and power lines.
A falling tree killed a woman in a home in Bynum, about 50 miles east of Birmingham, and a deputy spotted a tornado about the same time, said Laura Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency.
A tornado overturned mobile homes and damaged other houses in rural Autaugaville, Ala. “The town itself is small, but the storm concentrated in that area,” said Lisa Sulkosky of the Autauga County Emergency Management Agency. Emergency Management Director Randy Taylor said only one person was injured.
Mack Clark and his wife escaped injury in Autaugaville by hiding in a hall closet as the twister peeled the roof off their house. “It brushed up against our back,” he said.
More damage was reported in a half-dozen other Alabama counties, and fallen trees blocked highways.
Deaths in Mississippi, Louisiana
One person was killed in Olla, La., and several homes were “completely torn up” Tuesday night, LaSalle Parish Sheriff Carl Smith said. Olla, with a population of around 1,400, is about 45 miles north of Alexandria.
“It cut a path through the middle of town,” Smith said.
A twister touched down Wednesday morning north of Slidell, a suburb of New Orleans, damaging as many as 50 homes and injuring a half-dozen people, said James Hartman, a spokesman for the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Department. A tornado apparently hit the Jefferson Parish city of Westwego, just south of New Orleans, early Wednesday, tearing off roofs and heavily damaging several businesses, Police Chief Dwayne Munch said.
In Mississippi, a tornado killed one person in a house and injured two others outside Louisville, in Winston County, said Clarence Kelley, the county’s civil defense director. Damage also was reported in scattered communities elsewhere across the state.
The house “was flattened. It was scattered everywhere. There was nothing left at the site itself,” Kelley said.
The storm destroyed VFW Post 9122 in Simpson County, southeast of Jackson, said Louis Tanksley, the post commander. He said the storm also wiped out 27 acres of trees the post had planned to sell as timber if it ever needed to raise money.
“We may be able to salvage the chairs and tables. Hopefully, we can salvage the bingo equipment. We have to have that to stay open. That’s how we do our charitable work,” Tanksley said.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour declared a state of emergency Wednesday.
About a dozen tornadoes struck Texas on Tuesday afternoon and evening. Four of them hit Hardin County, killing a woman and injuring three other people, said Valeri Stewart, a dispatcher for the sheriff’s department.
There was “pretty extensive damage” throughout northern Hardin County, she said.
Authorities believe three other tornadoes hit the town of Kirbyville within minutes of one another, said Billy Ted Smith, emergency management coordinator for Jasper, Newton and Sabine counties. A possible tornado damaged four homes in Wharton County late Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.