Three people are confirmed dead and several others have been injured as powerful storms smashed into buildings, downed trees and left a trail of destruction around the US Deep South on Monday.
One person was killed in a suspected tornado strike on a Louisiana home, and two others were confirmed dead after another storm hit around a community about 55 miles west of the north Alabama city of Huntsville.
Two people were killed and at least four others were injured when another apparent tornado smashed into Town Creek, Alabama, the community’s police chief, Jerry Garrett, said. Officials there said houses or mobile homes were destroyed.
Lawrence County coroner Scott Norwood said the two people killed were husband and wife. Authorities said the injured people included a seven-year-old-child who was taken to a hospital in Birmingham. Authorities did not release names of the victims.
The storms triggered multiple tornado watches and warnings over a span of several hours. Elsewhere, some cities opened shelters as a cold front collided with warmer air over northern Gulf Coast states and temperatures were expected to plunge.
The Louisiana death was attributed to an apparent tornado that struck a residential area in Vernon Parish, but details were not immediately available, said Chief Deputy Calvin Turner. He said authorities feared others could be hurt in the area since crews were still trying to reach hard-hit areas where downed trees and power lines blocked roads.
“We’ve got damage at lots of places. We’ve got a church where the fellowship hall is torn all to pieces. Some homes are hit. Right now we’re having trouble just getting to places because of trees that are down,” he said.
In nearby Alexandria, Louisiana, about 200 miles north-west of New Orleans, the storm left roads impassable and destroyed a car lot, said Captain Phillip Jordan of the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Children in a church school were moved to the church before the tornado ripped off the school’s roof, said Wade Bourgeois, spokesman for the Alexandria Police Department.
“Fortunately we have no reports of any deaths or serious injuries,” he said of the Alexandria area.
Mr Bourgeois said some mobile homes and a few houses were damaged. Downed power lines left people stuck in homes or other buildings until rescuers could reach them, he said.
“They weren’t pinned or dangerously trapped.”
Meteorologist Donald Jones of the National Weather Service office in Lake Charles said it appeared the twister that hit part of Alexandria also struck near the town of DeRidder on an “absolutely ridiculous” path estimated at 63 miles long.
“I don’t know what our records for the longest total in this area is, but that’s got to be pretty damn close to it,” he said.
Three people were injured, at least one of them very seriously, by an apparent tornado that hit Amite County, Mississippi, on Monday afternoon, county emergency director Grant McCurley said.
“We’ve got multiple houses with severe damage and a few houses that are completely destroyed,” he said.
About 20,000 homes and businesses were without power in Louisiana and Mississippi, and outages could spread as storms moved eastward.