Families Shattered by Tornadoes in Louisiana and Mississippi

By Jake Bleiberg and Kevin McGill | December 16, 2022

KEITHVILLE, La. (AP) — A storm system that spawned dozens of reported tornadoes from east Texas to the Florida Panhandle was all but done with the South on Thursday after killing at least three people and uprooting families across Louisiana, where some homes were blown into pieces.

Elsewhere, heavy snow and high winds meant more blizzards in the northern Midwest from the Dakotas through Michigan, with ice and snow causing trouble in places from the Appalachians through New England.

The National Weather Service can take days to confirm whether destructive winds were in fact tornadoes, but the impact was clear in places like Caddo Parish, Louisiana, where a man went out for groceries and returned to discover his mobile home was gone, and with it, his wife and son.

“You go to search a house and the house isn’t even there, so where do you search?” Gov. John Bel Edwards said as he toured the mile-long (1.6-kilometer) path of destruction in rural Keithville, south of Shreveport.

The body of 8-year-old Nikolus Little was found in the woods. The body of his mother, Yoshiko A. Smith, 30, was discovered later, under storm debris. “He just went to go shopping for his family, came home and the house was gone,” Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Sgt. Casey Jones said.

Another Keithville man, William Walls, said a tornado picked up his home and tossed it into his brother’s house next door. Videos he posted on Facebook show the shredded remains.

“This is my house,” he said. “It’s gone.”

Walls said in the videos that he was standing on the back porch of his brother’s home and the wind blew the door shut. He couldn’t get inside and he ended up standing out there as the tornado came right over the house, he said.

“I was standing on that back porch. I couldn’t get in the house, when that tree fell and I watched it pick my trailer up and throw it into there,” Walls said.

Possible twisters pummeled parts of New Orleans and its neighboring parishes. Authorities in St. Charles Parish, west of New Orleans, said a woman was found dead there after a suspected tornado on Wednesday struck the community of Killona along the Mississippi River, damaging homes. Eight people were taken to hospitals with injuries, they said.

“She was outside the residence, so we don’t know exactly what happened,” St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said of the woman killed. “There was debris everywhere. She could have been struck. We don’t know for sure. But this was a horrific and a very violent tornado.”

Other possible twisters struck neighboring Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes _ including areas badly damaged by a March tornado. St. Bernard Sheriff Jimmy Pohlman said the latest tornado damage covered a roughly 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) stretch. Parish President Guy McInnis said the damage was less than in the March tornado though numerous roofs were blown away or damaged.

New Orleans emergency director Collin Arnold said business 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.”

And in New Iberia, Louisiana, a possible twister injured five people as it smashed the windows of Iberia Medical Center, the hospital said.

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’s Rankin County, a suspected tornado destroyed four large chicken houses, one containing 5,000 roosters, Sheriff Bryan Bailey said. Mobile homes at a park in Sharkey County, Mississippi, were reduced to shredded debris.

About 10,000 customers remained without power in Louisiana, and more than 100,000 lost electricity in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility outages. 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 a winter storm watch through Friday afternoon. Residents from West Virginia to Vermont were told to watch for a possible significant mix of snow, ice and sleet.

–McGill reported from New Orleans.

Top photo: Debris is piled up following severe weather Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, in Keithville, La. A volatile storm ripping across the U.S. spawned tornadoes that killed a young boy and his mother in Louisiana, smashed mobile homes and chicken houses in Mississippi and threatened neighboring Southern states with more punishing weather Wednesday. (AP Photo/Jake Bleiberg)

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