Severe storms kill one in Mississippi, strains New Orleans’ antiquated drainage system

SLIDELL, La. (AP) — Severe storms blamed for a death in Mississippi spawned a tornado that demolished buildings in one Louisiana city Wednesday while inundating streets in low-lying New Orleans with hours of steady rain that snarled traffic and strained the city’s antiquated drainage system.

Severe weather stretched across much of the Gulf South with reports of damage from Texas to the Florida panhandle.

Close to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain fell in parts of New Orleans. It came as the system of pipes and pumps that drains the city dealt with problems with its power generating system, forcing workers to divert power from one area to another as needed.

“During intense rain, the mission sometimes shifts from keeping the streets dry to draining them as quickly as possible,” the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, which operates the system, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Hours after the rain ended, floodwaters lingered in some neighborhoods in New Orleans and in neighboring Jefferson Parish.

More than 30,000 homes and businesses were without power Wednesday night in Louisiana’s St. Tammany Parish, where a tornado struck the city of Slidell, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of New Orleans. It ripped roofs off buildings and partially collapsed others in and around the city of about 28,000 people. Authorities said first responders had to rescue people trapped in one heavily damaged apartment building.

There were no reports of deaths or critical injuries in Slidell. The National Weather Service said in a social media post Wednesday night that initial surveys of the damage indicate the area was hit by a category EF-1 tornado, with winds anywhere from 86 mph (138 kph) to 110 miles per hour (177 kph). More surveys and analyses were planned to confirm the twister’s strength and path.

In Mississippi, the death of Shirley Wilson, 64, was attributed to the storm. Wilson had several medical conditions that required her to have access to an electric oxygen machine at all times, Scott County Sheriff Mike Lee said.

In Texas, several people were rescued from homes and vehicles early Wednesday morning when flooding inundated parts of Jasper County, near the Louisiana line, authorities said.

All major roads into Kirbyville, a Jasper County town of about 2,000 people, were shut down early Wednesday due to the flooding, the sheriff’s office said.

Some of the damage in Katy, a Houston suburb, had preliminarily been determined to have been caused by an EF-1 tornado with estimated maximum winds of around 90 mph (145 kph), National Weather Service meteorologist Bradley Brokamp said.

In Mississippi, the sheriff sent out an urgent warning Wednesday to people in parts of Yazoo County, just northwest of Jackson, about a levee failure there. The sheriff’s office called for the evacuation of one subdivision. County officials continued to monitor the levee, WAPT-TV reported.

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