NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A line of severe storms swept through southern Louisiana on Wednesday, unleashing a tornado that damaged an oil refinery, downpours that caused widespread street and home flooding, and lightning that is believed to have sparked a house fire. At least one person died, apparently after being swept under a truck by rushing water, authorities said.
An EF-1 tornado, about 150 yards wide with maximum winds estimated near 105 mph, hit Garyville about 5:30 a.m., the National Weather Service said.
The tornado damaged a cooling tower at the Marathon Petroleum Corp. refinery, shutting down the crude oil unit it served, and two refinery workers needed minor first aid, company spokesman Jamal Kheiry said in an email. The unit probably will remain closed until the cooling tower is fixed, he said. He added that other refinery units, including a second crude refining unit, were still operating.
There were no other reports of injuries in St. John the Baptist Parish, where the only other reported damage was a few flooded houses, parish spokeswoman Baileigh Rebowe said.
Some homes and businesses also flooded in adjacent St. James Parish, but officials were still tallying the damage, spokeswoman Melissa Wilkins said.
Nearly 50 houses and apartments flooded in St. Landry Parish, 32 of them in an area north of Sunset that got 7 inches of rain, administrative director Jesse Bellard estimated.
"The drainage in that area doesn't flow that great and when they get that much rain," he said.
Bellard said parish crews helped get most of the water out of the houses and helped families clean up.
"We've been running around the parish trying to clean up the drainage problems with logs in the ditches and stuff and prepare for the rains we're going to have later," he said.