Severe weather moved through the South on Thursday after killing at least seven people in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana, including a worker at a factory hit by an apparent tornado, a man whose car was blown off the road and a man who went outside to grab a trash can and was swept away in a flood.
More than 150,000 customers from Texas to Georgia were without power Thursday as the severe weather blew eastward, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility reports. There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries east of Louisiana, even as tornado warnings urged residents of several states to pay attention and take shelter.
Nine suspected tornadoes touched down in southern Oklahama, National Weather Service meteorgologist Alex Zwink said. One of them caused widespread damage across the town of Madill, near the Red River, said Donny Raley, the city’s emergency manager.
Just outside town, workers were leaving for the day from J&I Manufacturing, which makes trailers, when a suspected twister hit. The body of a worker was later found about a fourth of a mile (0.4 kilometers) away, Marshall County Emergency Management Director Robert Chaney said.
A second person died in Madill when the tornado blew his vehicle off a highway: The body of Chad L. Weyant, 46, of Madill was found in the median and his vehicle in a nearby field, according to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol report.
At least three people were killed when apparent tornado touched down in southeast Texas about 6 p.m. Wednesday near Onalaska, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Houston, the Polk County Emergency Management System said in a statement. The storm also caused severe damage to homes and other structures in Seven Oaks, said Carrie Miller, a spokeswoman for Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy.
Charles Stephens of Onalaska told the Houston Chronicle that he and his wife were holed up in their bathroom when a large pine tree fell through their roof during the storms Wednesday night.
“It took me 45 minutes to climb through the roof to get out,” Stephens said, adding that he had to use a hatchet to get his wife out of the debris.
A Louisiana man was later found dead after a witness saw him try to retrieve a trash can from water near a drainage ditch; He lost his footing and was swept away by floodwaters, DeSoto Parish Sheriff Jayson Richardson told The Shreveport Times.
“There was some pretty extreme flooding here in Mansfield. Water like I’ve not seen in many, many years, if ever,” the sheriff told the newspaper. “Basically the water rose really fast and we had to rescue some people out of homes. I think we had about 20 or so homes that people were flooded in.”
And a woman was killed on a bridge in Woodworth, Louisiana, 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of Alexandria, due to the severe weather, the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office told KALB-TV. The sheriff’s office did not provide detail on how she died.
The Alexandria campus of Louisiana State University also saw some damage from the storm. The university tweeted, “All resident students safe. There is damage to DeWitt Livestock building and a camper flipped over." The campus was also left without power.
A National Weather Service team will be dispatched to survey damage and to confirm whether the storms were tornadoes.