Friday 30 September 2016

Three killed as powerful storms spark tornadoes across Gulf Coast states

Published 24/02/2016 | 09:46

Destruction at the Sugar Hill RV Park in Convent, Louisiana (AP)
Destruction at the Sugar Hill RV Park in Convent, Louisiana (AP)

At least three people have been killed as a storm system spawned tornadoes in the Gulf Coast states of the US.

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Two people were killed at a motorhome park in the town of Convent in southern Louisiana, police said, and authorities are searching for people possibly trapped under the debris.

Thirty-one people were taken to hospital with seven in critical condition, officers said.

St James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin said: "We never had anything like this, we never had this many people injured in one event, and so much destruction in one event. We won't stop searching until we're satisfied we've searched every pile."

He said three people were still believed to be missing but efforts to account for them were hampered because authorities did not know how many people were at the park when the storm hit or how many were taken to hospital in private vehicles.

In Mississippi, officials are sorting through reports of damage to some buildings, and the Lamar County Emergency Management Agency said a 73-year-old man died in a mobile home west of Purvis.

In Alabama and Georgia, forecasters issued flash flood watches ahead of the storm system, which was expected to drop 1in to 2in of rain. The northern part of Georgia was also under a wind advisory.

The reported tornadoes were part of a line of severe weather and storms that ripped through the region, which is expected to reach the Carolinas later.

The forecast for the Carolinas predicts possible flash flooding and severe thunderstorms, including damaging winds, hail and isolated tornadoes. W ind gusts may be particularly strong, reaching 70mph or more.

News outlets in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida said schools had cancelled Wednesday classes ahead of the storm.

At least seven tornadoes hit south-east Louisiana and south-west Mississippi, said Ken Graham, the meteorologist in charge for the National Weather Service's south-east Louisiana office.

That number includes the ones in Convent and Purvis, he said. Teams are documenting the damage and rating the tornadoes.

The storm even affected the National Weather Service, Mr Graham said. At one point staff in the Slidell office took shelter because a tornado was nearby, and lightning took out the office's radar, forcing them to use back-ups, he added.

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

A reported tornado caused damage but no injuries near New Orleans's 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 gym.

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