A line of severe storms raked southern Louisiana on Wednesday, spawning a tornado that damaged more than three dozen homes at Lake Charles and spreading high winds and hail throughout virtually all of the Baton Rouge area.

At least one injury was reported.

The violent weather rolled through ahead of a cold front that would drop temperatures slightly but reduce humidity to a comfortable range. Breezy weather is expected to last through Friday.

The Storm Prediction Center had forecast an "enhanced risk" of severe weather as the storms took shape early Wednesday in eastern Texas. The line of storms hit southwestern Louisiana in the morning, and individual storms popped up in the Baton Rouge region at midday — rotating enough to prompt tornado warnings north and east of the city.

Several areas throughout the state experienced power outages, with Entergy reporting the most blackouts in Tangipahoa and East Feliciana parishes, where roughly 1,385 and 1,075 homes, respectively, were without power Wednesday evening. 

The rest of the greater Baton Rouge area fared better, however, with Entergy spokesman David Freese reporting 500 customer accounts without power in Ascension, 350 without power in East Baton Rouge and 70 without power in Livingston. Each customer can be a household or a business, which means the number of people affected was higher that those figures.

Freese said crews were fanning out in affected areas to repair the damage on Wednesday evening. 

As the storm moved east of Baton Rouge, heavy rains and high winds swept through parts of Tangipahoa and Livingston parishes Wednesday afternoon and into the evening.

Tangipahoa Parish emergency director Dawson Primes reported high water on many roads, but knew of no wind damage in the parish as of early Wednesday evening.

At Hidden Oaks Campground in Robert, just east of Hammond, property owner Scott Poston said Wednesday afternoon that 3 1/2 inches of rain had fallen at the site, and he expected more. The 150-plot, 76-acre campground has flooded 18 times since January due to the nearby Tangipahoa River jumping its banks.

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"I'm pretty sure we'll flood again, since the front isn't even here yet," he said.

A tornado strike badly damaged about 40 homes in the Lake Charles area, Calcasieu Parish Emergency Preparedness Director Dick Gremillion said. At least one man in a collapsed house was hospitalized.

A Calcasieu Parish transit building and another one next door were also damaged but it was unclear if a tornado or heavy winds caused the destruction, parish spokesman Tom Hoefer said. Three buses in the parish building also sustained minor damage.

In a residential neighborhood outside the Lake Charles city limits in Calcasieu Parish, several houses were hit by what residents said was a tornado; about 25 homes saw major damage. Personal belongings and pieces of roof were strewn across the neighborhood in the aftermath of the strike.

One house all but collapsed with a family of four, a dog and a cat inside. The father was taken to a hospital with serious cuts on his foot and leg, but he was expected to recover, relatives said as they stood amid the home’s ruins, where a television remained mounted on a wall but the roof gone and other parts of the interior piled like matchsticks.

A door down, Ryan Nettles’ home also had major damage though much of the house was still standing. The garage was destroyed, the top of it thrown into a nearby yard.

Nettles, 44, said he had recently finished repairs from last year's hurricanes and he and his wife were just settling in to being empty-nesters after his youngest child moved out. Friends and neighbors rushed to help, including by tarping the roof and sweeping up strewn belongings as the rain came down.

"We'll pull together and we'll do it again," Nettles, the 44-year-old owner of a swimming pool business, said in the dining room of the house, its windows blown out. "I don't know why we keep doing it. I've got a business here in town so I've got to rebuild and get going."

The Lake Charles area was hit by Hurricane Laura, one of the worst storms in state history, in August 2020. It was followed six weeks later by Hurricane Delta, then a winter storm in February and severe flooding in May. Several thousand people are believed to still be displaced.

James Finn contributed to this report.


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