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Tornadoes strike south

Deadly tornadoes struck the south Wednesday morning and late Tuesday, leaving behind damaged communities in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | November 24, 2004

Deadly tornadoes struck the south Wednesday morning and late Tuesday, leaving behind damaged communities in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The north-central rural Louisiana community of Olla, in LaSalle Parish, saw enough damage from a twister late Tuesday that Louisiana state emergency management teams were conducting aerial damage assessments by Wednesday morning, according to Pete Schneider, spokesperson for the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Although officials were unable to give a count of homes or businesses damaged, many of them reported damage in Olla was "extensive," and could amount to at least dozens of homes and businesses damaged. LaSalle High School was severely damaged, according to local reports.

At least one person died in Olla, and injuries were reported.

Olla, home to some 1,400 people, is about 47 miles north of Alexandria.

A Louisiana subdivision north of Slidell, in St. Tammany Parish, also reported tornado damage. At least 50 homes were damaged, 10 of them severely, according to the parish sheriff's office.

The community of Kirbyville, Texas, was hit with as many as three separate tornadoes, according to a local dispatcher. The Central Baptist Church in Kirbyville reported it was serving as an American Red Cross shelter, and had provided meals for about 40 Red Cross workers and church volunteers.

Regional faith-based organizations said they were making contact with local clergy to try to get an idea of the extent of damages. Many of them reported communication was difficult because of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. "We're gathering information," said Barbara Duffield from the West Texas Episcopal Diocese. "Obviously the damage is out there."

In Texas, in Hardin County, at least four tornadoes were spotted, some of which caused damage in the northern part of the county, according to the sheriff's office there. One death occurred in Hardin County and several injuries were reported there.

The tornado damage in Texas comes on top of flood damage that began earlier this week. Two areas were impacted by what Texas state emergency management officials were describing as "severe river flooding." At Wharton, the Colorado River was expected to crest six feet above flood stage on Wednesday. At Cuero, the Guadalupe River was forecast to crest 20 feet above flood stage. This level impacts some 100 homes south of Cuero.

The Texas Engineering Extension Service activated two swift water rescue teams, one in Wharton County and a second in Comal County. The Salvation Army and Red Cross were providing mass care.

Some 250 people were evacuated in Jackson and Wharton counties. In Bishop County, 30 people were evacuated. Another 27 families were evacuated in Gonzales County, reported the Texas state operations center.

In Mississippi, pockets of damage were spread through many counties but state emergency management officials said they believed response would be handled at a local level. One person was killed by a tornado in Winston County.

In Alabama, damage seemed to be concentrated in an area around the rural town of Autaugaville, according to the Autauga County Emergency Management Agency.

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