Strong storms killed at least five people in Texas and Louisiana and left severe damage across parts of both states Wednesday and Thursday – including at Louisiana Tech University and its host city of Ruston, where the mayor says a tornado struck overnight.
Two people were killed in Ruston as a tornado ripped through the college town around 2 a.m. CT, tearing through buildings in the city and damaging athletic facilities on the Louisiana Tech campus, Mayor Ronny Walker said.
The identities of those who died weren’t immediately released. No college students were hurt, the university said, but the school was closed as the city copes with power outages and debris.
“We’re sustained significant damage,” Walker, the mayor, told CNN. “Many homes have been damaged. A shopping center took a direct hit.
“It’s really bad.”
City officials have set up a shelter for residents at an elementary school. Gov. John Bel Edwards traveled to Ruston on Thursday to assess the damage.
“First and foremost, Donna and I send our prayers and condolences to the families of those who were killed this morning and to the people of north Louisiana,” he said. “Assistance is already on the move to the affected parishes, and the state will use every available resource to help citizens and local governments rebuild and recover.”
The governor said he was told the tornado was an EF-3, which the National Weather Service says has winds as strong as 165 mph.
City streets and yards were littered with tree branches and other debris, video from CNN affiliate KTBS shows.
The storm ripped apart a scoreboard at Louisiana Tech’s softball field and left a few trees overturned nearby, including one that had fallen across the stands behind home plate, photos from Cory Diaz at the Monroe News-Star show.
Several tornado reports were made in Texas and Louisiana.
An apparent tornado was reported in San Augustine, Texas, late Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.
Several businesses were damaged or destroyed in San Augustine, including a convenience store that appeared to have a wall ripped away, CNN affiliate KETK reported.
A gas station clerk, Brenda Hall, told KETK that high winds pushed trash cans up the road at the beginning of the storm.
“I came outside to empty the trash can, and … the next thing I know the trash cans were going up (Highway) 21,” she said. “We knew then something was happening. Then the rain started swirling, the winds started blowing and the building started heaving.”
The weather service said it would send tornado survey teams to the San Augustine and Ruston areas.
Farther west, in the city of Bryan near Texas A&M University, Ryan Ullman captured video of a funnel cloud forming late Wednesday afternoon.
Aerial footage recorded by CNN affiliate KPRC showed several buildings in the Bryan area ripped apart.
Three were killed as a creek swept away a car
In Texas’ Erath County, three people were killed during severe weather Wednesday when a car they were in was swept away in a creek, CNN affiliate KTAB/KRBC reported.
The car had contained a family of four. Maria Ramirez and her two children died – Ramirez was found dead inside the vehicle, and the bodies of the children – ages 3 and 7, were found downstream, the affiliate reported.
The children’s father was rescued, having clung to a tree, the affiliate reported.
Storms hitting Southeast again
Tornado and severe thunderstorm watches were in effect for parts of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi on Thursday afternoon.
There were also tornado warnings popping up on the National Weather service tornado Twitter feed as a line of storms moved east-northeast.
CNN’s Jamiel Lynch, Haley Brink, Dave Hennen and Jeremy Grisham contributed to this report.