2 killed by severe weather in Louisiana, 7 others injured

ALABAMA (NYTIMES) – Powerful storms rolled through the US South late on Friday (April 9) into early Saturday, killing two people in Louisiana and bringing hail the size of softballs to parts of Alabama, authorities said.

A 48-year-old man was killed when a tree fell on his mobile home in Shreveport, Louisiana, around 6.30pm on Friday, according to Sheriff Steve Prator of Caddo Parish.

The tree struck a corner of the mobile home where the man was.

A woman who was also in the home was uninjured. Authorities said there were strong winds when the tree came down.

In Louisiana, the president of St. Landry Parish, Mr Jessie Bellard, confirmed that one person was killed and at least seven others were injured in the storms that moved through the area around 2am on Saturday.

The conditions of those injured were not immediately known.

Video recorded by the New Orleans television station WGNO showed widespread damage in Palmetto, Louisiana, a village about 96km north-west of Baton Rouge.

Winds were powerful enough to drag a home several dozen metres onto a road, the station reported.

Mr Bellard said crews were working on Saturday to clear debris and restore power to the area.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families affected by this storm,” he said.

Shortly after midnight, the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for portions of Louisiana and Mississippi, warning of the threat of a “couple of strong tornadoes”, hail, and wind gusts of up to 128kmh.

At 1.22am, the Weather Service issued a tornado warning for portions of Louisiana, including Palmetto, after radars indicated a tornado had most likely developed.

Mr Andy Patrick, a meteorologist with the Weather Service office in Lake Charles, Louisiana, said it is difficult to alert the public about severe weather when powerful storms develop overnight while most people are sleeping.

“It’s certainly a challenge,” Mr Patrick said, adding that a survey team would assess the damage in St Landry Parish to determine whether a tornado had developed and the strength of the storm.

Storms pushed east into Orange Beach, Alabama, which was pelted by large hail.

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The Weather Service office in Mobile, Alabama, received reports of hail the size of baseballs and softballs in some areas.

Storms also appeared in the Florida Panhandle on Saturday morning, with the Weather Service issuing a tornado warning around 6am for Walton County, which is about 144km east of Pensacola, Florida.

Images circulating online after the Florida storm showed significant damage, including one home that was reduced to a pile of debris and a roof that was torn from a convenience store.

Video also showed a possible waterspout near Panama City Beach.

About 30,000 customers in north-west Florida were without power after the storms, according to the utility Gulf Power.

The Weather Service issued a tornado warning for southwestern Calhoun County in the Florida Panhandle around 9am.

It said radars indicated storms were rotating that could produce a tornado, and that wind gusts could result in extensive damage.

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“Flying debris will be dangerous to those caught without shelter,” the Weather Service said. “Do not wait to see or hear the tornado.”

By late Saturday afternoon, storms had pushed farther east toward Jacksonville, Florida, though they appeared to be weaker than those in the morning.

The Weather Service office in Jacksonville warned residents around 5:30pm that winds greater than 72kmh were possible with storms moving through the area.

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