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Devastating Tornado Outbreak: Three Dead as Severe Storms Hit South
Feb 23 2016 06:30 PM EST
By Sean Breslin

Three people have died as a dangerous, multi-day round of severe weather that has resulted in at least five confirmed tornadoes sweeps through the South.

In Louisiana, at least two people have died at a trailer park in Convent where hundreds of trailers were destroyed by a likely tornado, according to the Associated Press.

Sheriff Willy Martin added that authorities are still looking for people believed to be trapped under the debris.

He said he could not give an exact number of people injured but that he saw at least 30 people with injuries — seven of which were in critical condition. An unknown number of people have been reported missing.

The sheriff's office told WRBZ the trailer park had around 160 homes and about 300 residents.

Lamar County officials have confirmed to WDAM that there has been one fatality near Purvis, Mississippi.

Vann Byrd of the Lamar County Emergency Management Agency says the death occurred in a mobile home west of Purvis. The victim was identified as 73-year-old Harris Dale Purvis.

These storms are expected to push east and are likely to spawn several tornadoes. Here's a look at how other areas are preparing for this severe weather event.


Governor John Bel Edwards issued a state of emergency for seven different parishes across the state, including St. Johns, Assumption and Washington.

“I ask all Louisianans to pray for the victims of the terrible storms that touched down in Louisiana today and especially at the Sugar Hill RV Park in Convent,” said Governor Edwards. "We will do all that we can to help restore the families, businesses and communities destroyed by this tragedy.”

Several reported tornadoes left damage in southeastern Louisiana late Tuesday morning, and the threat continued into the afternoon in that area. Façades of buildings were peeled back by the strong winds, and roofs were tossed into nearby parking lots or fields in the Baton Rouge area.

Some of the most severe damage so far has occurred in Prairieville, southeast of Baton Rouge, where a Gold's Gym and several other buildings nearby sustained moderate damage around the time a tornado was reported in the area. Just 18 miles northeast, in Livingston, several homes had their roofs completely torn off.

A likely tornado touched down near Paincourtville in Assumption Parish and tracked eastward through parts of Belle Rose, Donaldsonville, Welcome and Convent.

The Assumption Parish Sheriff reported severe damage to businesses in Paincourtville and damage to a home in Belle River. Photos on Twitter showed the Paincourtville water tower destroyed, semi trucks at a Paincourtville business tipped over, and houses in both Paincourtville and Bell Rose torn apart.

Just after 11 a.m. Tuesday morning, a possible tornado was reported near Louis Armstrong International Airport in Kenner. Shortly after, the National Weather Service reported damage to several structures nearby.

There were reports of cars damaged at a parking lot near the airport. High winds sheared the brick and mortar from the rear wall of the New Mount Bethel Baptist Church. Ronald Myers, who lives across the street, believes it was a tornado.

"My wife came over to turn the [church] alarm off and she came back home and said, 'Baby, the wall behind the church has done fell down.'"

He said he struggled to keep his footing in the wind, and his wife was nearly knocked down.

"I weigh 242 pounds. If it could move me, it was moving," he said.

A possible tornado touched down between Franklin and Baldwin in St. Mary Parish, damaging several homes and downing power lines, according to KATC. No injuries were reported.

Other suspected tornadoes were reported north of Lake Pontchartrain and west of the city in St. Charles and Ascension parishes.

Nearly 20,000 customers were without power in south Louisiana on Tuesday as severe storms moved into the area, Entergy said.

School officials canceled classes in districts expected to be impacted by the severe weather Tuesday afternoon. Nearly all Baton Rouge-area schools were closed Tuesday, according to WBRZ.com.

Many schools in other parts of southeastern Louisiana also canceled classes Tuesday; the New Orleans Times-Picayune has a complete list.

Two radar confirmed tornadoes were spotted in Mississippi early Tuesday evening, one in southern Marion County and the other near Bogalusa in Pearl River County.

Gov. Phil Bryant issued a state of emergency for all areas of the state that may be affected by severe weather, ahead of Tuesdays storms, Mississippi New Now reports.

Jackson State University closed all locations as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, WLBT reports, and numerous school districts across the state released students early Tuesday to get them home before the storms begin.

An emergency shelter was scheduled to open at noon on Tuesday in Lamar County, the report added.


Early reports of widespread tornado damage have come out of Escambia County as the outbreak moves east.

The National Weather Service confirmed a twister that crossed Interstate 10, flipping several cars and a tractor trailer on the Escambia Bay Bridge, leaving the highway closed from mile marker 17 to mile marker 43.

24 units of the Mooring Apartment complex in Pensacola have been completely destroyed, while an additional six suffered minor damage.

"We were watching TV and the lights blinked three times," said Madeline Santiago, a resident of the apartment complex that was hit Tuesday evening told the Pensacola News Journal. "We heard a train noise and a bunch of hollering. We didn't know it was coming."

At least six injuries have been reported, though the extent is unknown, said Escambia County Media Relations Specialist Amanda Taft. The Escambia County Fire and Rescue also reported a "catastrophic" gas leak. On-scene crews aided in search and rescue duties for any who may be entrapped by debris.

Four people were taken to the hospital with injuries from Grand Baroque Apartments on Scenic Highway, according to a FOX 10 report. No fatalities occurred at that location.

An outage report Tuesday night listed nearly 10,000 customers without power in the Pensacola area, Gulf Power reported.


Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency early Tuesday evening as the storm systems approached Alabama.

Troy City Schools announced that students would be sent home at 1 p.m. Tuesday, and after-school activities would be canceled, the AP reported. Several other school districts followed suit in canceling after-school events, including Tuscaloosa and Mobile schools, but they were waiting to see if early dismissal would be necessary, the report added.

State athletics officials canceled two state high school championship basketball games in the Montgomery area.

WIAT.com has a list of districts impacted by early closings and other announcements.


Classes were canceled Tuesday in two southern Texas school districts after power outages and damage made it dangerous for students to attend. On Facebook, the Brackett Independent School District said damage to school buildings and vehicles from Tuesday morning's storms forced officials to call off school, while power outages canceled classes for the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District. About 10,000 customers in Del Rio were without power Tuesday morning, AEP Texas reported.

A Houston Independent School District bus driver suffered minor injuries when a school bus flipped onto its side in rainy conditions, according to the Associated Press. There were no students aboard the bus when the accident occurred along Highway 288 at about dawn Tuesday morning, Houston ISD spokesperson Lila Hollin told the AP.

The NWS confirmed an EF0 tornado was in progress early Tuesday morning in Wharton County, east-southeast of Boiling-lago.