Families Shattered By Tornadoes In Louisiana And Mississippi

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KEITHVILLE, La. — A storm system that spawned dozens of reported tornadoes from Texas to the Florida Panhandle was all but done with the South on Thursday after killing at least three people and uprooting families across Louisiana, where some homes were blown into pieces.

Elsewhere, heavy snow and high winds meant more blizzards in the northern Midwest from the Dakotas through Michigan, and more ice and snow causing trouble in places from the Appalachians through New England.

The National Weather Service can take days to confirm whether destructive winds were in fact tornadoes, but the impact was clear in places like Caddo Parish, Louisiana, where a man went out for groceries and returned to discover his mobile home was gone, and with it, his wife and son.

“You go to search a house and the house isn’t even there, so where do you search?” Gov. John Bel Edwards said as he toured the mile-long (1.6-kilometer) path of destruction in rural Keithville, south of Shreveport.

The body of 8-year-old Nikolus Little was found in the woods. The body of his mother, Yoshiko A. Smith, 30, was discovered later, under storm debris. “He just went to go shopping for his family, came home and the house was gone,” Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Sgt. Casey Jones said.

Presley Stevens and her daughter survived the Keithville storm in a bedroom closet, holding the door shut as powerful winds tore their mobile home apart.

“It was like a loud whooshing sound,” Stevens told KTBS-TV. “I heard all our stuff flying and smacking into stuff and our windows busting out.”

An outpouring of support was evident in Union Parish, near the Arkansas line, where a gymnasium was busy with volunteers and survivors going through stacks of donated clothing. Farmerville Mayor John Crow said an apartment complex where 50 families lived was badly damaged, a neighboring trailer park with about 10 homes was wiped out, and about 30 homes were damaged along nearby Lake D’Arbonne.

Patsy Andrews of Farmerville struggled to contain her tears as she described how she survived with her daughter, son and baby boy. A strange wind blew open the front door and her son barely managed to shut and lock it when her daughter got the tornado alert and yelled for them to get down, she said.

“By the time we landed on the floor, all we could hear was ‘Pow Pow!’ like gunshots,” as their windows shattered, she said. ”We was crawling, it was dark, and my baby was on the couch, he was asleep. … We thought we lost him. So my son went and grabbed him off the couch, because it was still popping like glass.”

Andrews said they scrambled to the bathroom and jumped into the tub, huddling and praying until the storm passed.

“Thankfully everybody in our community is safe. I like how we came together,” Andrews said, looking around the gymnasium. “Now we have to step up for our own town. And I think that’s the best, because it shows people -- it shows that people love you, it shows that people care.”

Possible twisters also pummeled parts of New Orleans and neighboring parishes. A woman was found dead and eight people were hospitalized with injuries in St. Charles Parish after a suspected tornado struck the community of Killona along the Mississippi River.

“She was outside the residence, so we don’t know exactly what happened,” St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said. “There was debris everywhere. She could have been struck. We don’t know for sure. But this was a horrific and a very violent tornado.”

In New Orleans, a home collapsed injuring four people, and five people were injured in New Iberia, Louisiana, where a possible tornado smashed the windows of Iberia Medical Center, authorities said.

“When I came out, all the windows were broken,” Lindsey Ronsonet, who was with a friend seeking treatment when the storm hit, told KATC-TV. “They had rain everywhere in there.”

In Mississippi, a suspected tornado destroyed four large chicken houses, one containing 5,000 roosters, Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey said, and mobile homes at a park in Sharkey County were shredded.

About 10,000 customers remained without power in Louisiana, and more than 100,000 lost electricity in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility outages.

Four more inches were expected Thursday to top the foot of snow that’s already fallen in Bismarck, North Dakota, where 60 mph wind gusts prompted a no-travel advisory for major highways.

“The wind and ice — it’s miserable, and a lot of people are in the ditches,” said Dean Cota, manager of the Stamart Travel Center, where the parking lot was full of truckers waiting out the storm. “Everything’s just slick and it’s blowing vehicles right off the road.”

Forecasters expect more blizzard conditions in places across the Upper Midwest, and ice and snow from the central Appalachians into the Northeast. The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch through Friday afternoon. Residents from West Virginia to Vermont were told to watch for a possible significant mix of snow, ice and sleet.

By JAKE BLEIBERG and KEVIN MCGILL - Dec 15, 2022 - 11:20 AM



McGill reported from New Orleans. James MacPherson contributed from Bismarck, North Dakota.


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