Possible Tornado Damages Town In Southwest Louisiana

What may have been a tornado hit the southwestern Louisiana town of Rayne, injuring at least nine people and leveling homes, authorities said.

Gov. Bobby Jindal Declares State Of Emergency For Severe Weather In South Louisiana

Due to the severe storms that wreaked havoc across southern Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Saturday.

The order is in response to the thunderstorms and tornadoes that passed through the region.

State officials said more than 100 homes and businesses in Acadia, Terrebonne and Jefferson Parishes were damaged or destroyed in the storm.

Crews are still working to get power restored to many residents in several parishes.

Authorities said more than 500 people have been evacuated from the area, a dozen have been injured and one person was killed.

Mother Killed Protecting Daughter During Tornado, Mayor Says

A mother died trying to protect her daughter when a tornado hit her home, a Louisiana mayor said, one of at least two twisters tied to a weather system that's caused major damage in the state and wreaked havoc on Mardi Gras festivities.

Rayne, Louisiana, Mayor James "Jimbo" Petitjean told reporters that the woman, who was not identified, was killed when a tree fell on her house. Her daughter is safe and OK, according to the mayor.

The National Weather Service confirmed that tornadoes hit that city, about 80 miles west of Baton Rouge, and the nearby city of Crowley on Saturday morning.

At least 11 were hurt in Rayne, according to state police Trooper Stephen Hammons.

Several buildings were leveled, lots reduced to rubble and large trees knocked down in the southern Louisiana city of 10,000 residents, according to video from CNN affiliate KATC.

Possible Tornado Damages Town In Southwest Louisiana

The tornado path takes in the northwest side of this city, cutting a swath about an eighth of a mile wide through residential and commercial areas. Early estimates have as many as 50 homes destroyed, along with a dozen businesses.

The triage station, at the pavilion next to the Rayne Frog Festival grounds, is packed with emergency responders from Rayne's fire, police and municipal employees to utility providers, Acadian Ambulance workers and State Police units. Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development crews are bringing in lights to allow operations to continue after night falls.

Troy Guidry, Acadian Ambulance's director of operations, said 12 patients had passed through the triage station. Of those 12, only one had serious injuries, with the other 11 being minor. They were each treated on the scene then dispatched to nearby hospitals.

Rayne Fire Department Chief Barry Granger said his department got the first call around 10:20 a.m. Center Point Energy has crews on location trying to shut down gas that is leaking from damaged homes and businesses in the storm's path.

"This damage is pretty significant," Granger said. "As long as I can remember this is probably the worst tornado to hit the city."

As of 1:05 p.m., evacuations were underway in the northwestern portion of Rayne as the smell of natural gas permeates the air. "They are evacuating northwest Rayne from the railroad tracks to Interstate-10 and from the boulevard back," said State Police Troop I spokesman Stephen Hammons. "There have been no confirmed deaths, but there is a heavy smell of gas in the air. Crews are going house to house through the area seeking the injured or dead."

According to Rayne High School student Kristen Petitjean, 16, the Rayne High School north gym roof suffered visible damage, as well as the school's math building. Cody Bergeron said he walked down the boulevard and saw that the O'Reilly's Auto Parts store's roof is gone.

But the damage seems most severe in the northwest quadrant of the town. As the crews clear each house, they are marking them with paint, creating a scene reminiscent of the post-Katrina flooding in New Orleans, where crews used painted grids to tell other searchers that homes had been cleared and what had been found.

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