EF3 tornado ransacked parts of Louisiana with winds up to 160 mph, officials say

Brian Lada

A day after a series of tornadoes caused widespread damage, injuries, and fatalities in the Deep South, reports continued to roll in of the storm's impacts while tornado warnings and watches persist.

Tornado watches and warnings continued into Tuesday morning, with many regions in central Alabama under a tornado warning and portions of southern Alabama, southern Georgia and the panhandle of Florida under a tornado watch.

A slew of more than 70 tornado warnings were in effect across Louisiana and Mississippi by midday Monday as a violent outbreak of severe weather ignited across the region sparking 33 tornado reports.

Many towns are left with impassable roads, snapped trees, damaged homes, and debris mangled in trees. The full scope of the damage won't be finalized until the National Weather Service (NWS) survey teams conclude their post-disaster analysis.

An EF2 tornado has already been confirmed from the community of Salt Well in Marengo County, Alabama. Two mobile homes and three injuries were reported at this location.

One tornado traveled more than 60 miles across central Louisiana, first touching down near DeRidder and continuing on the ground through Alexandria, according to the NWS.

A NWS Storm Survey team investigated the tornado between DeRidder and Alexandria on Tuesday and determined winds to be between 140-160mph making it an EF3 tornado. The path length was 62 miles long and tornado was 400 yards wide at its largest, according to the NWS Lake Charles.

AccuWeather Reporter Bill Wadell spoke with the mayor of the town, Jeffrey Hall, on the AccuWeather Network Tuesday to get the latest on the storm recovery.

"It's just amazing that so many people were here and went unhurt. We're thankful to the almighty for that," Hall said. He added that there are more highly populated areas that were spared from the tornado's wrath and officials were "thankful for that" as well.

Hall also credited the residents' ability to follow the proper safety measures and take cover when the dangerous storm was bearing down.

"It seems liked these young people then the adults that were here did exactly that and [it] spared their lives and spared injury for sure," he said.

The strong tornado prompted a rare tornado emergency for Alexandria. The NWS confirmed the "large and destructive tornado" that was observed near the Alexandria International Airport in an emergency bulletin.

A 59-year-old woman named Betty Patin has been confirmed dead by the Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office (VPSO) after the tornado wreaked havoc for over an hour by her mobile home, located on Borel Road, east of Rosepine, Louisiana.

"The Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of the storm victim. Sheriff Craft asks that everyone keep the victims of this storm and our first responders in their thoughts and prayers," VSPO said in a Facebook post on Monday evening.

Sheriff Sam Craft, of VPSO, said the hardest-hit areas were located in the eastern part of Vernon Parish in the Cravens, Marlow, and Borel Road East of Rosepine.

In Alabama, two individuals were confirmed dead after a suspected tornado twisted into Town Creek, Alabama, the town's police chief, Jerry Garrett, said. The individuals were a married couple who were found dead north of their property. Along with fatalities, Garrett added that four or five other people were injured.

Among the injured is the couple's 7-year-old son, who was found near the parents. The child was taken to a local hospital with critical injuries. Lawrence County Sheriff Max Sanders said on Tuesday morning that the boy is fighting for his life.

"It was just total chaos," Scott Norwood, Lawrence County coroner, said. "We just had to make do the best we could... but we all interagency worked together and we're still working together."

Emergency management reported that seven people were injured and a home was destroyed in Sumrall, Mississippi, following the powerful storm, as well as two minor injuries due to debris in Franklin County, Mississippi. Damage was reported near Edwards, Mississippi, including snapped power poles, according to local emergency managers.

Preliminary damage survey information suggests a high-end EF2 tornado with winds estimated around 132mph tore through Lamar County around Sumrall and into far southern Covington County.

Pictures of a tornado in Foxworth, Mississippi, emerged on social media around 7 p.m. Monday evening.

A tornado in Foxworth, Mississippi around 7 p.m. EST on Monday evening. Twitter/JBE00

A large cone tornado and damage have been reported after a likely tornado in Laurel, Mississippi, which is located 25 miles north of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Low-end EF3 tornado damage has been assessed in Jones County, Mississippi as it went through Laurel.

Storms elsewhere across the eastern U.S. also ended in tragedy with flooding downpours in Kentucky resulting in at least one fatality, according to the Associated Press.

Tornado activity is not rare in the United States during this time of the year, but the impacts and width of these recent storms make this round notable. There were more fatalities on Monday from the tornadoes than from the past three Decembers combined, according to the Storm Prediction Center. But in 2015, tornadoes were recorded every day of Christmas week in the Deep South and at least 15 deaths were blamed on the storms.

"The tornado activity across the Lower Mississippi Valley on Monday was not out of the ordinary for December, but the storms were particularly strong and long-lived for this time of year," Rich Putnam, an AccuWeather Senior Storm Warning Meteorologist, said "Typically that region experiences a minimum in tornadoes during the summer months, and sees the majority of their late summer and early fall tornadoes occur during tropical events. However, as we get into the late fall, the jet stream begins to swing far enough south to supply the upper atmospheric ingredients necessary for organized severe weather."

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell, there have been two EF 5 tornadoes and 14 EF 4 tornadoes in Decembers since 1950. In 2018, an outbreak yielded 26 confirmed tornadoes in Illinois, breaking the previous state record set in 1957.

"What made this outbreak particularly dangerous was how strong and long-lived these tornadoes were, with numerous long-track supercells all occurring at the same time," Putnam said.

Continue to check back with AccuWeather for the latest information on this story, and follow AccuWeather on Twitter for additional updates on the severe weather.