A large and volatile storm system tearing through the United Statescausing tornadoes that battered the state from north to south, including the New Orleans area where memories of 2021 and linger.
Elsewhere, the huge system kicked off blizzard-like conditions across the Great Plains.
Several injuries were reported around Louisiana by authorities. The number of power outages statewide, which topped 40,000 Wednesday night, fell to some 10,000 Thursday morning, according to PowerOutage.us.
Punishing storms rolled eastward on Wednesday aftera day earlier. The system triggered a suspected tornado that killed a woman Wednesday in southeastern Louisiana’s St. Charles Parish and another that struck parts of New Orleans and nearby Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes – including areas severely damaged by the March tornado.
A tornado hit New Iberia, Louisiana, lightly injuring five people and shattering windows in a multi-story building at the Iberia Medical Center, the hospital said. As the night progressed, tornado threats eased in Mississippi, although some counties in Florida and Alabama remained under threat from severe weather.
New Orleans Emergency Manager Collin Arnold said businesses and residences in the city suffered extensive wind damage, mostly on the west bank of the Mississippi River. A house has collapsed. Four people were injured there, he said, adding: “The last word we had was that they were stable.”
Similar damage was reported nearby.
“Several homes and businesses sustained catastrophic damage,” the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office said in a statement from this large suburb west of New Orleans. Among the heavily damaged buildings was the Sheriff’s Office Training Academy building.
In the town of Gretna, the parish seat of Jefferson Parish, Michael Willis was sitting in his SUV when, he says, the tornado lifted him up, according to CBS New Orleans affiliate WWL-TV.
“It happened fast. I had never been inside a tornado before,” Willis said. “I’m looking at wood, buildings, all in the same twist, like it’s spinning with me and then it throws me off.”
Willis says he immediately started praying and didn’t know if he was safe. “I thought it was coming back. Electrical wires, everything was everywhere and then it started raining hard,” Willis said.
Looking at the damage, he knows how lucky he is. “I tried to play hard for a second and then I was like, ‘No, my God, I’m not ready to go now,'” Willis said.
Debris shattered his windshield and broke his passenger side window. He says the tint on the glass prevented anything from hitting him.
“That tint saved my life,” Willis said as he held up his broken passenger window.
In St. Bernard Parish – where the March tornado wreaked havoc – Sheriff Jimmy Pohlman said the latest tornado damage covered an area of about 2 miles. Parish President Guy McInnis said damage was less than in the March tornado, although many roofs were blown away or damaged.
Authorities in St. Charles Parish, west of New Orleans, said a woman was found dead there after a suspected tornado struck the community of Killona along the Mississippi River on Wednesday, damaging homes. Eight people were taken to hospital with injuries, they said.
“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’re not sure. But it was a horrific and very violent tornado.”
About 280 miles away in northern Louisiana, it took authorities hours to find the bodies of a missing mother and child after a tornado ripped through their trailer on Tuesday in Keithville , south of Shreveport.
“You’re going to search a house and the house isn’t even there, so where are you looking?” Governor John Bel Edwards told reporters, noting the challenge facing emergency responders as he navigated a mile-long path of destruction through the Keithville countryside. He had issued an emergency declaration earlier in the day.
The Caddo Parish Coroner’s Office said the body of Nikolus Little, 8, was found late Tuesday evening in some woods and the body of his mother, Yoshiko A. Smith, 30, was found on Wednesday under the debris of the storm.
Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Sgt. Casey Jones said the boy’s father went shopping before the storm hit. “He just went shopping for his family, came home, and the house was gone,” Jones said.
The storms battered Louisiana from north to south. In Union Parish, near the Arkansas line, Farmerville Mayor John Crow said a tornado on Tuesday night severely damaged an apartment complex where 50 families lived, wiping out a nearby trailer park with about 10 houses. “It happened quickly,” Crow said Wednesday, adding that about 30 homes were also damaged along nearby D’Arbonne Lake.
A suspected tornado reported Wednesday in New Iberia, southwest Louisiana, damaged several buildings at the New Iberia Medical Center, hospital officials said, with five people reporting minor injuries.
In nearby Rankin County, Mississippi, a suspected tornado destroyed four large chicken coops, including one holding 5,000 roosters, Sheriff Bryan Bailey said. Mobile homes in a park in Sharkey County, Mississippi were reduced to shredded debris.
The storm began its journey across the country by dumping heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada. Damage followed Tuesday when thunderstorms from the storm swept across Texas. At least five people were injured in the Dallas suburb of Grapevine, police spokeswoman Amanda McNew said.
Forecasters now expect the vast system to plague the upper Midwest with ice, rain and snow for days, and also move into central Appalachia and the northeast. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch from Wednesday evening through Friday afternoon, depending on the timing of the storm. Residents from West Virginia to Vermont have been urged to watch for a possible heavy mix of snow, ice and sleet.
“This system is remarkable in that it will affect areas from California to the northeast,” said meteorologist Frank Pereira of the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.
In the Black Hills of western South Dakota, snow piled up to nearly 2 feet in some locations. “They shovel for hours,” said Vicki Weekly, who runs a historic hotel in the tourist and gambling town of Deadwood. where some visitors still ventured into the casinos.
A roughly 320-mile stretch of Interstate 90 in South Dakota was closed Wednesday, and state officials warned drivers to stay off most freeways.
In northern Minnesota, heavy, wet snow left tree branches to sag and made driving hazardous on Wednesday. Weather Service meteorologist Ketzel Levens in Duluth said 6 to 8 inches of snow had accumulated in some areas. The StarTribune said a blizzard warning was in effect until 6 p.m. Thursday and 30 inches of snowfall was possible by the weekend.