At least three people have been killed and several others injured as a storm system with multiple tornadoes ripped through the Gulf Coast states Tuesday, reports said. More storms are expected Wednesday and will continue through Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and eastern Virginia.
Two of the deaths were at a Louisiana recreational vehicle (RV) park, where 160 motor homes and trailers were affected by strong winds, CNN reported. Footage obtained from the park showed several motor homes and trainers blown apart and the road through the park filled with ambulances, fire trucks and pickup vans. At least 30 people were treated at hospitals, of whom seven were critically injured, Brandon Keller, a spokesman for the St. James Parish Sheriff's Office, told NBC News.
A man, who was in a house near the RV park in the town of Convent in southern Louisiana, told WVUE, a CNN affiliate, that he heard a “big rumbling sound and the whole entire house started shaking” when he was sleeping. He collected his family members and started praying. “They [his family members] were praying, and I was crying. I was so scared; the house would not stop shaking,” the man reportedly said.
St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin, told WVUE, according to the Associated Press (AP): “We never had anything like this; we never had this many people injured in one event, and so much destruction in one event,” referring to the damage caused in the RV park. “We won’t stop searching until we’re satisfied we’ve searched every pile,” Martin added.
A third person was killed in Lamar County, Mississippi, county Coroner Cody Creel told NBC News. The National Weather Service reportedly said that radar indicated a possible tornado at the scene, where a home was destroyed. By late Tuesday, the storms had moved to southern Alabama and northern Florida, the report added.
Six people were injured in Pensacola, Florida, after three buildings were damaged there, Amanda Taft, a spokeswoman for the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners, told NBC News, adding that the extent of damage was not immediately clear.
According to the National Weather Service, a car was blown off Interstate 10 near Brent in Escambia County and some other vehicles were also overturned on other roads. Following the damage, a 26-mile stretch of Interstate 10 in Escambia and Okaloosa counties was closed by the Florida Highway Patrol, which urged motorists to stay safe, and refrain from driving or riding, NBC News reported.
The governors in both Louisiana and Mississippi have announced a state of emergency in their states, the AP reported, adding that schools across both the states canceled classes anticipating further storms. Ken Graham, the meteorologist in charge for the National Weather Service's southeast Louisiana office, reportedly said that at least seven tornadoes hit southeast Louisiana and southwest Mississippi.
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, estimates that over 6 million people in parts of the five states — Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Georgia — are under a moderate risk of being affected by strong storms and tornadoes.
While no injuries have been reported in areas hit by storms in Alabama and South Texas, forecasters predict flash floods in Alabama and Georgia before the storm system reaches the region. The flash flood warnings are expected to be in effect through Wednesday afternoon, the AP reported.