Storms Push Across South, Damaging Buildings, Cutting Power

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TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A trip to Walmart on Monday was memorable for some shoppers in Marksville, Louisiana, as severe weather blew out skylights in the store, sending water and glass cascading onto shoppers.

The storm system that moved from Texas across the South left a trail of damage reported in at least 28 Mississippi counties, 15 Louisiana parishes and 15 Texas counties. State emergency officials reported no injuries or deaths in Louisiana and Mississippi.

A threat of tornadoes continued after sundown for southern Alabama, southwest Georgia and the Florida Panhandle. Severe weather exited Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, though, allowing Auburn University and the University of Oklahoma fans to reach Monday night’s Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

More than 50,000 customers in Louisiana and more than 30,000 in Mississippi lost power at the height of the storm, according to utilities.

The squall line hit Louisiana’s Avoyelles Parish just before noon. Bunkie Fire Chief Joey Frank says trees fell on three houses in his town, while Marksville Fire Chief Jerry Bordelon said a fireworks stand in the Wal-Mart parking lot was tossed 30 or 40 yards and mangled. The storm also knocked over 18-wheel truck trailers and punched holes in the Wal-Mart’s roof. The fire department ordered shoppers to leave the store, but some didn’t want to leave even as managers closed it.

“Believe it or not, we had some people in there who were still trying to shop,” Bordelon said.

Walmart spokeswoman Erica Jones said the Arkansas-based company hopes to reopen the store Tuesday, but isn’t sure that will happen, citing needed repairs to a natural gas line.

Storms in central Mississippi near Mendenhall and Mount Olive were preliminarily identified as tornadoes by the National Weather Service, based in part on radar signatures. Both storms damaged farm buildings and homes.

Other possible tornadoes will be surveyed later.

In Louisiana, there was also relatively serious damage in the southwestern parishes of Beauregard and Allen, including the town of Reeves. Some wind damage was also reported in Houston and throughout East Texas. Though Arkansas had also been included in warnings, there was only a stray report of hail in Jackson County in the northeast part of the state.

Freddie Zeigler, a meteorologist in the Weather Service’s New Orleans office, said heavy winds were preceding the squall line, possibly contributing to power outages. A gust of 52 mph was reported at McComb, Mississippi, about 1 p.m. Monday.

It was the second episode of heavy rain within days for some areas. An area stretching from Biloxi, Mississippi, through Alabama and across Macon and Augusta, Georgia received more than 4 inches of rain Monday, according to radar estimates. Parts of southern Mississippi and southwest Alabama have received more than 8 inches of rain since Saturday. Though rivers along the Gulf Coast were rising rapidly Monday, only minor flooding was predicted.