FOUR FORKS, La. (NewsNation) — Crews were out removing wreckage, fixing power and trying to offer help to people who may not have a home Thursday after a vast and volatile storm system ripping across the U.S. killed at least three people in the Bayou State.
The storm spun up tornadoes that battered the state from north to south, including the New Orleans area, where memories of 2021’s Hurricane Ida and a tornado in March linger. Elsewhere, the huge system hurled blizzard-like conditions at the Great Plains.
Several injuries were reported around Louisiana by authorities and there were more than 40,000 power outages statewide as of Wednesday night.
The system spun off a suspected tornado that killed a 56-year-old woman Wednesday in southeast Louisiana’s St. Charles Parish. Her family said she died after a trailer flew up and landed on her home.
“I’m going to miss her. It’s a sad thing. I going to miss everything about her,” an acquaintance of the woman said.
The punishing storms also barreled eastward near Caddo Parish Wednesday, killing a mother and son in the northwestern part of the state a day earlier. The 30-year-old woman was discovered in wreckage a street over from her home. Her 8-year-old son was found in the woods about a half-mile away.
The family across the street survived. Their home did not.
“We knew it was going to storm really bad. I did not know it was going to tear right through the neighborhood,” the neighbor said.
Another storm center pummeled parts of New Orleans and neighboring Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes — including areas badly damaged by a March tornado.
A tornado struck New Iberia, Louisiana, injuring five people and smashing out windows of a multistory building at Iberia Medical Center, the hospital said. As night drew on, tornado threats eased in Mississippi, although some counties in Florida and Alabama remained under a severe weather threat.
The National Weather Service can take days to confirm whether destructive winds were in fact tornadoes. Data compiled by the Southern Regional Climate Center at Texas A&M University showed nearly 50 tornadoes reported across six states since Tuesday — the vast majority of them in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Collin Arnold, the director of New Orleans disaster response, said businesses and residences in the city suffered significant wind damage, largely on the Mississippi River’s west bank. One home collapsed. Four people were injured there, he said, adding, “The last word we had is that they were stable.”
Similar damage was reported nearby.
“Several homes and businesses have suffered catastrophic damage,” the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office said in a statement from that large suburb west of New Orleans. Among the heavily damaged buildings was the Sheriff’s Office’s training academy building.
An 8-year-old boy and his mother were killed in rural Keithville, Louisiana, when their mobile home was swept away Tuesday. Authorities found a third victim outside a home in St. Charles Parish, west of New Orleans, after a possible tornado struck the opposite corner of the state Wednesday.
The storms battered Louisiana from north to south. In Union Parish, near the Arkansas line, Farmerville Mayor John Crow said a tornado Tuesday night badly damaged an apartment complex where 50 families lived, wiping out a neighboring trailer park with about 10 homes. “It happened quick,” Crow said Wednesday, adding about 30 homes also were damaged along nearby Lake D’Arbonne.
In Mississippi, a suspected tornado destroyed four large chicken houses, one containing 5,000 roosters, Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey said. In Summerville, Alabama, Fire Chief Michael Aaron said storm winds tore away roofing and downed power lines.
State emergency managers said four people were also injured in storms. Three of those were in the Mississippi Delta’s Sharkey County, where storms hit a mobile home park in Anguilla on Wednesday. One person was injured in Hinds County, home to the capital city of Jackson.
Before the storm front started moving offshore, police in rural Doerun, Georgia, reported that a suspected tornado struck a large building housing a cotton gin, leaving a sagging heap of bent metal. No injuries were reported, the police department said in a Facebook post.
Further to the north, the National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings Thursday in the Dakotas as well as portions of Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska. As the storm moves eastward, interior parts of the Northeast could accumulate as much as 1 foot of snow, said Zach Taylor, a weather service meteorologist in College Park, Maryland.
“It really, truly has been a coast-to-coast winter storm that has affected a large portion of the country, and that doesn’t begin to even mention the severe weather in the South,” Taylor said.
Roger Hainy, who owns a farm near Wessington Springs in central South Dakota, said he was shut in after blowing snow formed drifts that made the roads impassable. Hainy’s farm lost power earlier in the week when freezing rain hit the area.
“Back when I was a kid we used to have three-day blizzards, but this one is going to be four days,” Hainy said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had one like this.”
In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state is well prepared for several inches of snow expected in some areas over the coming days. During a briefing in Albany, Hochul said there’s also a chance that strong winds could topple power lines.
“We have utility crews all set, already on the ground, ready to respond as quickly as possible,” she said.
Forecasters expect more blizzard conditions in places across the Upper Midwest, and ice and snow from the central Appalachians into the Northeast. The National Weather Service issued an ice storm warning Thursday in parts of four states and a winter storm warning through Friday night from Pennsylvania to Maine. The weather service said heavy snowfall is expected across portions of interior New York and New England through the weekend with storm totals expected to reach one to two feet.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.