Severe weather blew through the South on Thursday after killing at least seven people in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana, including a worker at a factory hit by an apparent tornado, a man whose car was blown off the road and a man who went outside to grab a trash can and was swept away in a flood.
More than 150,000 customers from Texas to Georgia were without power as the severe weather blew eastward, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility reports. There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries east of Louisiana, even as tornado warnings urged residents of several states to pay attention and take shelter.
An apparent tornado killed three people and injured 20 to 30 more in and around the southeast Texas town of Onalaska. Suspected twisters destroyed 46 homes and damaged another 245 in the surrounding area, according to Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy. The judge told the Beaumont Enterprise on Thursday that the dead included a woman in her 20s, a man in his 50s and another man whose age they don’t know.
“It took me 45 minutes to climb through the roof to get out,” said Charles Stephens of Onalaska. He told the Houston Chronicle that he and his wife were holed up in their bathroom when a large pine tree fell through their roof Wednesday night, and he had to use a hatchet free his wife from the debris.
Nine suspected tornadoes touched down in southern Oklahama, National Weather Service meteorgologist Alex Zwink said. One of them caused widespread damage across the town of Madill, near the Red River, said Donny Raley, the city’s emergency manager.
Just outside town, workers were leaving for the day from J&I Manufacturing, which makes trailers, when a suspected twister hit. The body of a worker was later found about a fourth of a mile (0.4 kilometers) away, Marshall County Emergency Management Director Robert Chaney said.
A second person died in Madill when the tornado blew his vehicle off a highway: The body of Chad L. Weyant, 46, of Madill was found in the median and his vehicle in a nearby field, according to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol report.
A Louisiana man was later found dead after a witness saw him try to retrieve a trash can from water near a drainage ditch; He lost his footing and was swept away by floodwaters, DeSoto Parish Sheriff Jayson Richardson told The Shreveport Times.
“There was some pretty extreme flooding here in Mansfield. Water like I’ve not seen in many, many years, if ever,” the sheriff told the newspaper. “Basically the water rose really fast and we had to rescue some people out of homes. I think we had about 20 or so homes that people were flooded in.”
And a woman was killed on a bridge in Woodworth, Louisiana, 15 miles south of Alexandria, due to the severe weather, the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office told KALB-TV. The sheriff’s office did not provide detail on how she died.
Louisiana State University System President Tom Galligan said the Alexandria campus lost power and water because of the storms. He said the approximately 40 students remaining on campus amid the coronavirus outbreak were being moved Thursday to a nearby hotel until campus services can be restored.
National Weather Service teamd will be dispatched to survey damage and confirm whether the storms were tornadoes.