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2 dead in Louisiana as tornadoes hit the South, leaving thousands without power

The National Weather Service warned there was a chance of damaging winds and “very large hail” across the Gulf Coast and the Southeast on Tuesday.
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At least two people died as severe weather hit Louisiana overnight, with storms and tornadoes bringing devastation to southern states and leaving tens of thousands with damaged homes or severed power lines.

One person died in unknown circumstances on the outskirts of the town of Henderson, while an unidentified woman was killed when a tree fell onto her trailer in West Baton Rouge, police said. A man and a 5-year-old boy were also in the trailer and were taken to a local hospital to be treated for their injuries, the local sheriff's office said.

Flash flooding and storms hit communities from Texas to Florida, with 186,000 energy customers without power as of 9:30 p.m. Monday.

Still more than 105,000 customers were without power across five states as of Tuesday morning, including 70,000 in Louisiana and 14,000 in Florida.

The National Weather Service warned that the severe weather threat may not be over Tuesday, with a chance of damaging winds and "very large hail" across the Gulf Coast and the Southeast, and possible tornadoes for central and southern Florida and southern Georgia.

One dead in Louisiana as tornadoes hit the South, leaving thousands without power
Ed Sutton outside his destroyed trailer in Tallahassee, Fla., on Monday. Alicia Devine / USA Today Network via Imagn

Sheriff Becket Breaux of St. Martin Parish, east of Lafayette, confirmed in a video message posted on Facebook on Monday night that one person had died on the outskirts of Henderson and said damage across the county suggested there had been a tornado.

The weather service earlier confirmed one tornado in Calcasieu Parish near Sulphur and one in Lake Charles.

"We already have one confirmed fatality and we don't want no one else getting hurt," he said.

Henderson Mayor Sherbin Collette told the same news conference: "We have a lotta roads damaged, water across the roads, trees across the roads, debris all over the place, we're asking people to stay out" of the affected areas.

Footage from Henderson showed buildings lying in ruin. Pat's Fisherman's Wharf, a popular seafood restaurant founded in 1948, shared footage showing storm damage and piles of rubble. "We got hit real bad by the tornado," the restaurant's Facebook page said.

St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office also urged people in a Facebook message to not go out sightseeing amid the wreckage.

Elsewhere in Louisiana, footage uploaded to social media showed flash flooding making driving hazardous in Denham Springs, east of Baton Rouge, while water was surrounding houses in Zachary, to the northwest. In the city of Sulphur, strong winds had overturned at least one car and badly several damaged buildings, videos showed.

In Alabama there were 14 tornado warnings Monday alone, the weather service said

Texas was hit by hailstorms — featuring hailstones as large as golf balls in the city of Victoria, 30 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico — as well as lightning strikes.

Hobby Airport in Houston was closed after lightning damaged a runway. The airport later reopened but advised passengers to check with their airlines before traveling.

Florida was again hit by storms, while a huge rebuilding operation prompted by previous tornadoes was well underway. The city of Tallahassee said Sunday that almost 400 utility poles had been brought down, which is more than during Hurricanes Hermine, Irma and Michael combined. As many as five times the normal number of maintenance staff were working on getting power restored, City Hall said.

April and May are usually busy months for tornado activity, but this spring has been exceptional, from the Southeast and the Great Plains to the Midwest.

This year, there have been more than 6,000 reports of large hail and damaging winds, including 267 tornadoes across 19 states in just the last two weeks. This year has seen the second most-active April for tornadoes on record, behind only 2011.