Photos: Deadly Tornadoes Pummel Louisiana

Photos: Deadly Tornadoes Pummel Louisiana

Devastating storms ripped through the South as part of a huge front of bad weather moving through the U.S. this week.

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Sheet metal wrapped around a tree on December 14 in the wake of a tornado in Keithville, LA.
Sheet metal wrapped around a tree on December 14 in the wake of a tornado in Keithville, LA.
Photo: Jake Bleiberg (AP)

A powerful storm system that charged through the Western and Southern United States this week has left a particularly aggressive trail of destruction in Louisiana and Mississippi. At least three people are dead as the storm makes its way towards the East Coast. More than 50 tornadoes were reported across Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi this week, as the Midwest faced blizzards and power outages.

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Deaths in Louisiana

Deaths in Louisiana

Debris in Keithville, Louisiana.
Debris in Keithville, Louisiana.
Photo: Jake Bleiberg (AP)

On Tuesday afternoon, a tornado touched down in St Charles Parish, Louisiana, and ripped through the surrounding town, tearing down homes and buildings. Local authorities reported Wednesday that the bodies of 30-year-old Yoshiko Smith and her 8-year-old son Nikolus Little were recovered after their home was destroyed in the tornado. The Louisiana Department of Health confirmed on Wednesday evening that a 56-year-old woman was also killed in the storm after her house was also devastated by the storm.

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State of Emergency

State of Emergency

Sheet metal wrapped around utility poles in Arabi, Louisiana.
Sheet metal wrapped around utility poles in Arabi, Louisiana.
Photo: Matthew Hinton (AP)

More than 11,000 customers remain without power in Louisiana as of Thursday morning, according to PowerOutage.us. Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, anticipating that “several parishes will declare states of emergency and will need assistance in their response to this developing threat.”

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Mobile Homes Damaged in Mississippi

Mobile Homes Damaged in Mississippi

A flooded mobile home community in Ruleville, Mississippi on December 14.
A flooded mobile home community in Ruleville, Mississippi on December 14.
Photo: Rogelio V. Solis (AP)

In Mississippi, three people were injured and multiple mobile homes damaged in Anguilla, while authorities say they are still assessing the damage in other parts of the state. This storm is the second to cause tornadoes in Mississippi in just over two weeks: in late November, tornadoes destroyed homes and buildings in the state and killed two in Alabama. The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for parts of Florida until Thursday afternoon.

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Homes Went ‘Up Into the Air’

Homes Went ‘Up Into the Air’

An RV in front of a destroyed structure in Arabi, Louisiana.
An RV in front of a destroyed structure in Arabi, Louisiana.
Photo: Matthew Hinton (AP)

“I’m sorry – I’m super shooken up,” Angel Landry, a resident of Chalmette, Louisiana, told her local Fox Weather station. “All the things that you see on TV and hear about tornadoes when you’re so close to one, it’s just that. To see complete homes go up into the air and just disintegrate.”

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Tornadoes Form During Storms

Tornadoes Form During Storms

Debris in Keithville, Louisiana.
Debris in Keithville, Louisiana.
Photo: Jake Bleiberg (AP)

Tornadoes like the ones that hit the South are caused during thunderstorms when moisture, wind and temperature conditions are all at the right levels. When winds pick up and change direction sharply in a storm, the warm, humid air rising from cooler air in a thunderstorm can pick up speed and form vertical spinning currents—a tornado.

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Tricky to Link Tornadoes and Climate Change

Tricky to Link Tornadoes and Climate Change

A destroyed chicken farm in Pelahatchi, Mississippi.
A destroyed chicken farm in Pelahatchi, Mississippi.
Photo: Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey (AP)

While research has firmly established the connections between warmer temperatures and hurricanes, precipitation, and other extreme weather, linking tornadoes to climate change is a slightly trickier proposal, given how complex they are. The factors that create tornadoes—humidity, wind speed, cold and warm air—are all affected differently by climate change. Given that tornado records are smaller and historically more sparse than other forms of weather data, scientists are working to try and figure out how tornados are being affected by our changing climate.

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Storm Coming for East Coast

Storm Coming for East Coast

A utility worker observes damage in Keithville, Louisiana.
A utility worker observes damage in Keithville, Louisiana.
Photo: Jake Bleiberg (AP)

Aside from the devastating tornadoes, the enormous storm front caused widespread havoc across multiple parts of the country. In the Midwest, the storm brought blizzards and power outages: more than 55,000 customers in Minnesota and 68,000 in Wisconsin were still without power Thursday morning. As of Thursday, parts of multiple Midwestern states, including the Dakotas, Wyoming, Wisconsin, and Michigan, are under winter storm warnings, winter storm advisories, or blizzard warnings. Some 150 flights were canceled this week, while 3,000 more were delayed, the BBC reported. The storm now heads towards the East Coast, where it is expected to turn into a nor’easter, possibly bringing freezing rain this weekend to states from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts.

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