In the middle of the night, a powerful tornado ripped through the north-central Louisiana town of Ruston, killing two people and leaving behind damage on the campus of Louisiana Tech University.
The twister was part of a vigorous spring weather system, blamed for three flood-related deaths in Texas. It is forecast to spawn more severe weather across the South on Thursday.
The tornado in Ruston, about 70 miles east of Shreveport, tore through the town around 1:50 a.m. local time Thursday. Post-storm photos and video showed trees uprooted and buildings heavily damaged, some in ruins.
“It’s bad; real bad,” Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker told the News Star, a local newspaper. “We took a direct hit.”
Ruston is home to Louisiana Tech University which canceled classes Thursday. The twister toppled trees on the campus and caused “severe damage” to its athletic facilities according to Tommy McClelland, director of the university’s athletic programs. No injuries were reported on the campus.
The responsible tornado may have been on the ground for 150 miles, first touching down in East Texas, the Weather Service tweeted.
Before igniting storms in Louisiana, the weather system triggered large areas of flooding in Texas.
About 75 miles southwest of Fort Worth, a woman and two children died when their car was swept away by floodwaters early Wednesday.
At Dallas Love Field Airport, floodwaters engulfed two parking garages, submerging dozens of parked cars. Storms had unloaded three to four inches of rain on the region.
As the storm system lifts northeast from Louisiana and Arkansas through the Tennessee Valley on Thursday, more severe storms could erupt.
A tornado watch was issued for southeast Louisiana, including New Orleans and southern Mississippi through 3 p.m. Thursday. The National Weather Service outlined a zone of elevated risk for severe storms as far east as the Florida panhandle.
Although it has been a quiet spring for tornadoes in the Plains, the South and Southeast have seen a very active season. On April 18 alone, the Weather Service in Jackson, Miss., counted 40 tornadoes, the most on record for the state in a single day.
For the Lower 48 overall, the spring’s tornado activity is close to average.