Two killed by strong storms that sweep across South


Published: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

NEW IBERIA, La. — Powerful storms killed at least two people, flooded streets and ripped apart homes Friday as they moved from Louisiana through South Carolina.

Much of the worst damage was in Louisiana's Iberia Parish, where what appeared to be a tornado hit the New Iberia area just before 4 p.m. Thursday.

"We were just sitting and watching a movie, and then all of a sudden the wind started blowing and it got really bad," said Joyce Firmin of Iberia Parish. "It just sounded like a bunch of trucks or an airplane or something was coming toward the house."

Firmin's daughter, 14-year-old Jaci, said she could hear branches snapping and power lines popping during the storm. "My ears were popping a lot," she said. "When we came out, everything was down."

The storm killed a woman and 6-year-old girl in their home, the Iberia Parish Coroner's Office said, and at least 15 other people were injured.

Nine more people were hurt when the storm reached east-central Mississippi's Kemper County late Thursday and early Friday, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

"There's more damage out here than what we initially thought," Ben Dudley, Kemper County's emergency management director, said after trips to communities of Blackwater and Damascus on Friday. "We're looking at eight to 10 homes destroyed and several with major damage."

Carnell Newton said most of those injured in Blackwater were his relatives — including a woman who suffered a head injury and was reported in critical condition Friday.

"They were in a doublewide (mobile home) and it just exploded," Newton said.

Laquita Clark, 21, said the storm knocked her two-bedroom home off its foundation and turned it into a "disaster area." She had been next door at the time.

Five more homes and businesses were damaged in southern Mississippi's Stone County.

In northwest South Carolina, 15 people were injured when a suspected tornado piled cars on top of each other Friday afternoon outside an elementary school, officials said.

In Alabama, several vacant mobile homes parked outside a mobile home plant in Hamilton were damaged and power lines were down, officials said. Trees were down across stretches of Georgia.

From a Louisiana hospital, Steven Bruno described how he was flipped over twice while furniture and glass flew around his mobile home on Thursday. His girlfriend, who is six months pregnant, was hospitalized for fetal monitoring, and the hospital gown he was wearing is now the only thing he owns, he said.

Whether his home and others in southern Louisiana were hit by a tornado won't be determined until storm surveys are conducted.

In New Orleans, city workers had been dispatched early to clean drains and prepare for possible flooding ahead of the heavy rain.

Southern Louisiana has been pounded by major storms that bumped its December rainfall total to more than 10 inches, nearly twice the normal average, and forecasters on Friday warned that more rain was coming.

"More showers and thunderstorms are on the way Saturday afternoon and evening as we get another cold front coming through. We're in a progressive pattern — almost like clockwork, every three days we'll get a front through," said weather service forecaster Kent Kuyper.

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