Tornado watches and warnings were in effect across portions of the Deep South on Monday, a prelude to what promised to be a violent evening of severe weather.
Damage was reported in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, where trees were knocked down and several homes damaged, the Storm Prediction Center said.
One fatality has been confirmed by the Vernon Parish (Louisiana) Sheriff’s office from a tornado that roared near Alexandria, Louisiana.
Vernon Parish Chief Deputy Calvin Turner said what appeared to be a large tornado left a path of destruction.
“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,” said Turner.
The tornado was on the ground for 63 miles, the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, Louisiana, said. Meteorologist Donald Jones said that “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.”
About 20,000 customers were without power in Louisiana and Mississippi due to the storms, according to poweroutage.us
Radar showed possible twisters as the weather system moved across the region, prompting tornado warnings in east Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi as storms moved eastward, the National Weather Service said.
The Storm Prediction Center has placed portions of Louisiana and Mississippi under a “moderate” risk of severe weather, the fourth level on the center’s 1-5 scale of severe weather risk.
“These storms will be capable of producing damaging wind gusts, torrential downpours, hail and even an isolated tornado or two,” AccuWeather meteorologist Brandon Buckingham said.
“All of the severe thunderstorm threats will continue for a time into the evening hours, becoming even more dangerous in the dark,” Buckingham added.
Several school systems in Alabama and Mississippi dismissed students early and canceled afternoon events and activities as a precaution since storms were forecast to be moving through around the usual dismissal times.
Storms could affect the Southeast on Tuesday, especially portions of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida, the Storm Prediction Center said.
Contributing: The Associated Press