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A deadly storm swept through the Gulf Coast causing flooding and destruction

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A powerful storm swept through several Gulf Coast states yesterday, flooding roads and damaging hundreds of buildings. Winds reached 100 mph in some places, leaving thousands without power. The National Weather Service says at least three tornadoes were reported. Cori Yonge with Alabama Public Radio has this report.

CORI YONGE, BYLINE: The most severe damage was in Slidell, La., where police Officer Rodney West was caught in his patrol car as the tornado touched down around him. He described what happened on the Slidell Police Department Facebook page.

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RODNEY WEST: Basically, it was zero visibility, and the rain was all over the place. My car was shaking.

YONGE: When the storm lifted, destruction was everywhere.

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WEST: What I saw was just buildings with the windows busted out, cars on their side, other vehicles wrecked, power lines down - worst-case scenario that you could imagine.

YONGE: Slidell Mayor Greg Cromer says more than 30,000 homes and businesses lost power and predicts it could take several days to restore electricity to everyone. There were no serious injuries, but Cromer says the immediate need is for labor.

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GREG CROMER: Helping people in some of these homes that don't have the ability to get in, and take trees off of homes or out of their yards and getting it curbside so we can get it removed.

YONGE: The powerful storm swept east from Louisiana to Florida. Schools in Slidell and many across the Gulf Coast were canceled or closed early for the day. Slidell schools will be closed until Friday. In Mobile, Ala., rising waters trapped motorists trying to cross Mobile Bay. Meteorologist Jessica Chace with the National Weather Service says a rare combination of strong southerly winds and an incoming tide caused more than a foot of water on the road.

JESSICA CHACE: We did anticipate the coastal flooding. However, this moved so quickly, it rose so quickly that, you know, it ended up unfortunately flooding the causeway and causing those impacts.

YONGE: Chace says National Weather Service teams will spread out across the Gulf Coast today to assess the wind and water damage. It's expected to be dry and sunny the rest of the week.

For NPR News, I'm Cori Yonge in Mobile.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Cori Yonge