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Storms bring floods and damaging winds to states across the South

Heavy rain, tornadoes, hail and damaging wind gusts were all possible across the Gulf Coast and the Deep South on Wednesday.
Storms bring floods and damaging winds to states across the South
Posted at 3:12 PM, Apr 10, 2024

Strong storms flooded New Orleans streets and demolished buildings in one of the city's suburbs Wednesday, part of a severe weather system that pounded communities across much of the South, killing one in Mississippi.

In Slidell, Louisiana, northeast of New Orleans, multiple people were injured and first responders were scouring neighborhoods after reports of a morning tornado strike.

Robin Marquez was at work, in a two-story building in Slidell when the sky suddenly darkened and she could see a cylindric funnel quickly approaching.

"Tornado," she screamed, hoping other employees would heed her warning.

She and seven others huddled in her office, away from windows as wind gusts imitated the sounds of a train above them, the lights flickered and they could feel "the building being torn apart" around them.

"I've never talked to God so much before in my life," the 45-year-old said.

Marquez and the others with her were not injured. When they left their shelter, they saw complete destruction. The roof was gone, the walls caved in and the aluminum siding was ripped off. In the middle of what once was the building's lobby lay a speed limit sign.

"They had businesses that partially collapsed, apartment complexes. Trees are down everywhere, power lines are down everywhere," Daniel Suezeneau, a spokesperson for Slidell police, said in a video update Wednesday on social media.

Police video shows roofs torn off of homes and apartments, tree limbs littering the streets and flooded yards that resembled Louisiana swamps. Outside a McDonald's restaurant, a car was on its side, power poles leaned toward the ground and large pieces of the McDonald's Golden Arches sign were strewn about.

High-water vehicles were mobilized for rescues from rising water — even as officials and property owners were assessing damage from a suspected tornado, Suezeneau said. Injuries ranged from "minor to moderate" he said.

SEE MORE: Tornadoes, large hail, floods threaten Gulf Coast and Southern regions

First responders were able to remove people trapped inside a heavily damaged apartment building, police said.

After several hours of steady, often heavy rain, New Orleans suspended bus service as water collected in streets and flooded highway underpasses. An estimated 8 inches of rain was reported to have fallen in parts of the city, the latest challenge to the city's antiquated street drainage system.

In Mississippi, one person was killed and one was injured by severe weather that pounded the state Tuesday night and Wednesday, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said. The agency also said 72 homes were damaged. The death and most of the property damage occurred in Scott County, east of the capital city of Jackson.

Heavy rain, tornadoes, hail and damaging wind gusts were all possible across the Gulf Coast and the Deep South on Wednesday, according to meteorologist Ashton Robinson Cook with the NWS Weather Prediction Center.

In Texas, several people were rescued from homes and vehicles early Wednesday morning when flooding inundated parts of Jasper County, near the Louisiana line, authorities said.

"The City of Kirbyville remains under water and is still the major concern at this time," the Jasper County Sheriff's Office said on social media.

All major roads into Kirbyville, a town of about 2,000 people, were shut down early Wednesday due to the flooding, the sheriff's office said. Shelters were being set up after about 50 people were displaced from their homes, Billy Ted Smith, the Jasper County emergency management coordinator said. He estimated those people came from about 20 flooded homes and said there had been around half a dozen people rescued from vehicles. He said that so far, no major injuries have been reported.

In the Houston suburb of Katy, strong thunderstorms that passed through the area around 2 a.m. Wednesday collapsed part of the roof of a Firestone repair shop. Storms also damaged businesses and cars in a nearby strip mall, including sending a large air conditioning unit that had been on the roof crashing to the parking lot, officials said.

No one was inside the repair shop, but at a nearby sports bar, employees were in the back cleaning up and restocking after the business had closed for the night when the thunderstorms rolled through, Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen told reporters later Wednesday morning.

"We were blessed that no lives were lost," Christensen said, adding that only minor injuries were reported.

Some of the damage in Katy had preliminarily been determined to have been caused by an EF-1 tornado with estimated maximum winds of around 90 mph, National Weather Service meteorologist Bradley Brokamp said.

Photos posted on social media showed heavy damage to a church in Port Arthur, Texas, where city officials said they were also dealing with downed trees and powerlines.

In Mississippi, the sheriff sent out an urgent warning Wednesday to people in parts of Yazoo County, just northwest of Jackson, about a levee there.

"If you or someone that you know lives in the Eastbrook subdivision on Highway 16 in Yazoo County you need to evacuate IMMEDIATELY!!!," the Yazoo County Sheriff's Office posted on social media. "The levee is about to break on the lake and the houses will flood. Please get out ASAP!!!"

It was not immediately known how many residents were affected by the evacuation order, but the sheriff's office said in an update that only people in the Eastbrook subdivision were affected by the levee situation.

In Slidell, Marquez said in the coming days and weeks they will help the community rebuild — as is the way of life in Louisiana, which is frequently battered by damaging weather.

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