Breaking News Emails
Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By Phil Helsel and Amy Calvin
Three children died in Texas and Louisiana Saturday after powerful storms, including reports of tornadoes and flooding, swept through the states, and forecasters warned severe weather could hit other parts of the southern U.S.
In Texas two children, ages 8 and 3, were killed when a tree fell on a car Saturday afternoon, trapping them inside, according to the Angelina County Sheriff’s Department. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
In West Monroe, Louisiana, a 13-year-old boy drowned in a drainage area in what officials believe was a weather-related incident, said Glen Springfield, spokesman for the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office. Several streets had been closed in the city of around 13,000 and a flood warning had been issued for the area, officials said.
A fourth person who died in the storms was a woman killed by weather-related debris near the community of Weches in Houston County, Texas, the sheriff’s office said. The age of the woman was not released. Weches is west of Nagodochges.
In Franklin, Texas, a tornado touched down and destroyed homes Saturday, injuring about a dozen people described as walking wounded and sending two people to the emergency room, Robertson County Sheriff Gerald Yezak said.
“A strip of homes on the other side of town over here are completely gone, just gone, everything is gone,” Robertson County Emergency Management Coordinator Billy Huggins said.
The National Weather Service’s Fort Worth office tweeted that after a preliminary damage assessment, the tornado in Robertson County was estimated to have a peak intensity of EF-3 with winds of 140 mph. The damage survey will continue over the next several days, the service said.
Huggins said he got a call from the National Weather Service around 11:20 a.m. about a storm system that was on the ground and headed towards Franklin. “We started trying to get people activated to get eyeballs on it, and by then the thing was moving fast and it went right through town,” he said.
The weather service said severe thunderstorms from east Texas to Arkansas were possible Saturday, and the threat of severe weather will then affect the Ohio Valley into the southeastern U.S. on Sunday.
Angelina County is around 120 miles north of Houston, and Franklin, a town of about 1,500, is about 110 miles northwest of Houston.
In Alto, Texas, Marry Lamar with the volunteer fire department said a suspected tornado touched down Saturday, and several people were injured. The front wall of a gym at a school was blown off as were windows and doors at a fire house, Lamar said.
Video posted on social media showed trees and power lines down and homes damaged in the town of just over 1,200 people.
Meteorologist John Moore said a possible twister touched down Saturday in the Vicksburg, Mississippi, area, the Associated Press reported. No injuries were reported, but officials said several businesses and vehicles were damaged.
Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. told NBC affiliate WLBT the storms “just came in all at once” with heavy winds and rain.
“It was like it was a war zone; I’ve never seen nothing like it my life,” Flaggs told the station.
“It looked like everyone was safe,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. We’ve been blessed. What we’re going to do now is begin to recover.”
He said power crews were working to restore electricity to around 1,700 customers, and he asked people to not panic and to use caution when using alternate power sources like generators.
A meteorologist with Alabama’s emergency management agency warned that “supercells and potential tornadoes” could enter the western part of the state Sunday.
“Unfortunately, the western half of the state may have a few tornadoes before sunrise while many people are in bed,” meteorologist Jim Stefkovich said in a statement.
In Roberston County, Texas, the damage in Franklin was called “devastating” by Huggins, the emergency management coordinator. He said that everyone has been accounted for.
“To this small town of Franklin, it’s very devastating, how we’re going to get people help to restore their homes that don’t have insurance or what have you, it’s going to be pretty difficult,” he said. “It’s going to be a little difficult putting it back together, but we’ll do it.”