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Storms slam Louisiana and Mississippi; three people dead

Posted at 11:03 PM, Feb 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-23 23:04:15-05

A line of severe storms rumbled across the Gulf Coast states Tuesday night, toppling utility poles, tossing trailer homes and killing at least three people.

The storms pounded cities and towns in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Two of the deaths were at a Louisiana recreational vehicle park where 160 motor homes and trailers were pummeled by strong winds.

A man who lived in a house near the RV park in Convent told CNN affiliate WVUE that he was asleep when he heard a “big rumbling sound and the whole entire house started shaking.”

The man hustled his dog into the bathroom, where they got in the tub and were joined in the room by his mom’s fiancee and his parents. “They were praying, and I was crying. I was so scared; the house would not stop shaking,” he said.

Video from the park showed dozens of motor homes and trailers blown over and apart. The road through the park was filled with ambulances, fire trucks and pickups

Seven people were critically injured after severe weather hit the park, St. James Parish Sheriff Willy J. Martin told reporters. About 30 people suffered injuries to lesser degrees, he said.

In Prairieville, the storm ripped the roof off the gym as people quickly halted their workouts.

Kenneth Phillips was at the gym with his wife. He told CNN that they were using the squat rack near a glass wall that fell.

Phillips said the roof began to peel up.

“That’s when we dodged the debris to make it to the locker rooms,” he said.

He estimated there were more than 30 people in the facility when the storm blew through.

The Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Office reported severe damage to businesses in Paincourtville and damage to a home in Belle River. There were no immediate reports of injuries, Deputy Robert Martin said, after two tornadoes reportedly moved through.

Martin told CNN that at last one person in Paincourtville was hospitalized, but he didn’t know details about the person’s condition.

The wind knocked over a water tower, he said. CNN affiliate WAFB tweeted a photo of the wreckage, among other storm damage.

Mississippi fatality

One person died when storms hit Lamar County in Mississippi, county Emergency Management Director James Smith told CNN. The death occurred at a mobile home between Baxterville and Purvis, he said.

There were no reports of other deaths or injuries in the county, according to Smith.

The National Weather Service in Jackson, Mississippi, said a confirmed tornado hit southern Marion County.

Forecasters earlier said at least 20 million people in the Southeast are at risk of severe storms and tornadoes into Wednesday.

In addition to the threat of strong tornadoes along the Gulf Coast, areas from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle and north to southern Tennessee, were at risk of tornadoes, widespread damaging winds and some large hail.

The Storm Prediction Center issued what’s known as a “particularly dangerous situation” tornado watch for areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Schools in parts of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi announced early dismissal and some canceled classes in expectation of the storms.

Storm timing

Storms hit Texas early Tuesday and moved into Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi during the afternoon. Georgia and southern Tennessee were experiencing severe weather on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, storms will continue through Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and eastern Virginia.

Damaging winds will be the greatest threat, with the threat of tornadoes still possible though not as likely.