At least 3 dead as storms, tornadoes rip through Gulf states

Pensacola (Still frame from NBC News video)

WAVERLY, Va. – The Latest on a deadly storm system that spawned tornadoes along the Gulf Coast and damage along the East Coast:

8:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service says the risk of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes has ended in North Carolina.

But meteorologists say wind gusts of up to 30 mph are expected to affect the state through Wednesday night, possibly bringing down trees whose roots were weakened by the earlier storm.

Power outages continue to plague much of the Carolinas, without thousands of residents lacking power.

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8:30 p.m.

Storms brought heavy rains and strong winds through Maryland and Washington, leaving thousands without power and motorists stranded by flooded roads.

Fire officials in Montgomery County in Maryland say a man was rescued after a basement wall collapsed on him in a Silver Spring home Wednesday night.

Roads in several areas, including an exit from Interstate 95 in Baltimore and Interstate 495 in Columbia, Maryland, were closed because of high water.

Utility companies in Maryland and Washington reported that thousands of customers were without power Wednesday night.

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7:20 p.m.

Authorities have identified the victims of a powerful storm that battered the town of Waverly, Virginia, as a 2-year-old child and two men.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller says in a statement that the adults killed Wednesday were 50 and 26 years old. They were found about 300 yards from their mobile home.

Geller says the bodies were taken to the medical examiner’s office in Norfolk for positive identification.

The National Weather Service says the Waverly tornado was the only confirmed twister in the state but several others are suspected tornadoes.

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7 p.m.

At the University of Richmond, fans arriving early for a men’s basketball game were forced to move to a lower level of the Robins Center when a tornado warning was issued for the area around the campus.

Several hundred people were led down staircases to the lower floor, filling the hallway. They remained there for about 15 minutes before the warning expired and they were allowed to return to the arena.

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4:45 p.m.

Virginia State Police are now confirming three deaths in the tiny town of Waverly, which appears to be taking the brunt of a fast-moving storm sweeping across the East Coast.

Television newscasts showed shattered windows, splintered wood and shocked residents sizing up the aftermath of the storm.

Virginia State Police say at least five structures within the town limits have been damaged.

The names of the victims and the circumstances of their deaths were not released.

Roads leading into the town had to be closed because of downed trees and debris tossed by winds gusting to 60 mph.

The severe weather spawned several suspected twisters in Waverly and in the greater Richmond area.

Waverly is about 50 miles south of Richmond.

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3:30 p.m.

Residents in LaPlace, Louisiana, are cleaning up after a tornado ripped through the area.

The hum of chain saws could be heard as people got to work Wednesday cutting trees and fixing damaged roofs.

Eighty-year-old Rose Fuselier was in her house when the twister hit. She hid in a closet but then thinking the danger had passed, she came out. That’s when the door burst open. As she was struggling to push the door closed, the windows in the front of the house shattered.

Down the street, Darren Miller was in front of his parents’ house Tuesday when he heard a roaring noise. At one point, as the tornado swept through, he said he couldn’t even see across the street.

The windows in the house exploded and a 57-year-old oak tree went through the roof. As many as 200 homes in the area were damaged Tuesday.

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3:15 p.m.

Authorities say two people have died after powerful storms ripped through eastern Virginia, raising the death toll from the tornadoes and severe weather to five.

Ron Messina, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said the two people were killed in the town of Waverly on Wednesday.

Messina could not provide the victims’ identities or details about how they died. Three people were killed in Louisiana and Mississippi when tornadoes hit there Tuesday. Dozens of other people were injured.

The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for an area in southeastern Virginia, with radar indicating a twister in Waverly.

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2:30 p.m.

Police are reporting storm damage in Sussex County in southeastern Virginia from a system that has ravaged the South.

State Police Sgt. Michele Anaya says troopers were called to assist local authorities Wednesday afternoon. She did not know the extent of the damage, exactly where it occurred or whether there were any injuries.

Anaya said she could not confirm a twister, although the county was under a tornado warning when the damage occurred.

Workers who answered the phone at the Sussex County Sheriff’s Office and the Waverly Fire Department said all first responders were out and nobody was available to provide information.

The storms killed three people in Louisiana and Mississippi on Tuesday.

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11:30 a.m.

The National Weather Service is investigating two distinct tornado paths that crossed through St. John the Baptist Parish in Louisiana.

Forecaster Robert Ricks says one of the paths takes a possible tornado over the western part of LaPlace, where as many as 200 homes were damaged late Tuesday afternoon. Only minor injuries were reported.

Officials said that many residents who lost homes during the storm were previously affected by Hurricane Isaac in August 2012.

To the west, a tornado ravaged an RV park in Convent, killing two people and injuring about 30 others. The storms killed another person in Mississippi and damaged about 100 homes in Pensacola, Florida.


 

KENNER, La.  — Tornadoes and severe weather ripped through the Gulf Coast on Tuesday, mangling trailers at an RV park, ripping off roofs from buildings and killing at least three people in Louisiana and Mississippi, authorities said.

One of the most hard-hit areas appeared to be a recreational vehicle park in the town of Convent, in southern Louisiana. Two people were killed there, said St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin, speaking on local television. Authorities were still looking for people possibly trapped under the debris, Martin said.

Thirty-one people were taken to area hospitals, and seven of them were in critical condition, he said.

“We never had anything like this; we never had this many people injured in one event, and so much destruction in one event,” Martin told WVUE news. “We won’t stop searching until we’re satisfied we’ve searched every pile.”

Martin said three people were still believed to be missing but efforts to account for them were hampered because authorities didn’t know how many people were at the park when the storm hit or how many people were taken to hospitals in private vehicles.

PHOTOS: Gulf Coast storm damage

Jerome Picou, who lives near the park, said just before the tornado hit that it was raining and the skies grew dark. Then he heard what sounded like a freight train.

“The wind was blowing a little bit, but then it stopped. Then all of a sudden all kinds of wind and rain started. It was so bad, I had to go inside the house or I would have been blown away with it,” Picou said.

In Mississippi, officials are still sorting through reports of damage to some buildings, but Vann Byrd of the Lamar County Emergency Management Agency said one person died in a mobile home west of Purvis. Lamar County Coroner Cody Creel said that Dale Purvis, 73, died of blunt-force trauma.

The reported tornadoes are part of a line of severe weather and storms that ripped through the region.

At least seven tornadoes hit southeast Louisiana and southwest Mississippi, said Ken Graham, the meteorologist in charge for the National Weather Service’s southeast Louisiana office.

OUR WEATHER: Tampa Bay forecast

That number includes the one in Convent and near Purvis, Mississippi, he said. Teams will be sent out in the morning to document the damage and rate the tornadoes, he said.

The harsh weather even affected the National Weather Service, Graham said. At one point the staff in the Slidell office took shelter because a tornado was nearby, and lightning took out the office’s radar, forcing them to use backups, he said.

“We felt the shockwave go through the building,” Graham said.

Reported tornadoes and severe weather caused damage in other parts of both states.

A reported tornado caused some damage but no injuries near New Orleans’ main airport, while high winds ripped off roofs and downed trees around the greater New Orleans area. Other suspected tornadoes were reported north of Lake Pontchartrain and west of the city in St. Charles and Ascension parishes and in Prairieville, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, heavy damage was reported to some buildings, including a fitness gym.

In Mississippi, at least nine homes across Pearl River County were reported to be so heavily damaged as to be uninhabitable, said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Lee Smithson. The damage was widespread, so it was unclear whether it was a tornado or severe weather. A barn was destroyed near Avera in Greene County, said National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Miller in what forecasters believe was a tornado.

Wind damage was also reported in Yazoo, Forrest, Jones and Carroll counties.

In Florida, the National Weather Service said a tornado hit Pensacola, Florida. Meteorologist Steve Miller said the service has had many reports of property damage and people injured in storms Tuesday night.

Ronald Myers lives across the street from New Mount Bethel Baptist Church in Kenner, Louisiana, just outside of New Orleans. He recalled the sky darkening and high winds — he believes it was a tornado. He and his wife came outside when they heard the church’s alarm go off. High winds sheared the brick and mortar from the rear wall of the church.

“My wife came over to turn the alarm off and she came back home and said, ‘Baby, the wall behind the church has done fell down,'” said Myers. He said he struggled to keep his footing in the wind, and it nearly knocked his wife down.

Governors in both Louisiana and Mississippi declared states of emergency.

Speaking at the RV park in Convent, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards described the scene as a “jumbled mess.”

“We all need to be prayerful and mindful and take those tornado warnings when we see them very seriously,” Edwards said.

Schools across south Louisiana and Mississippi canceled classes ahead of the storm, sending tens of thousands of students home early to avoid having buses on the road when severe storms arrived.

The storms began as a line of fierce thunderstorms moved across Texas Monday night, leaving thousands without power and windows broken from hail, but no one was injured.

In Alabama and Georgia, forecasters issued flash flood watches ahead of the storm system, which was expected to drop 1 to 2 inches of rain. The warnings were expected to be in effect through Wednesday afternoon.

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