Debris litters ground in Rayne, La., after a suspected tornado hit the area injuring at least nine people, leveling homes and causing natural gas leaks that prompted evacuations on Saturday, March 5, 2011. (AP Photo/The Lafayette Daily Advertiser)
RAYNE, La. (AP) — A tornado slammed a southwestern Louisiana town Saturday, killing a woman and injuring 11 other people. More than 100 homes were damaged, many of them destroyed, authorities said, and about 1,500 people were evacuated because of natural gas leaks.
The 21-year-old woman was killed when a tree fell on her house, said Maxine Trahan, a spokeswoman for the Acadia Parish sheriff. Debris was littered throughout Rayne, a town of about 8,500 people, after a line of violent thunderstorms moved through the area and left behind a swath of damage about a quarter of a mile wide to three miles long. Pieces of homes were strewn about the tops of trees, and power lines were down. A U.S. Postal Service truck was flipped on to its side.
Trahan said the natural gas leaks, which were later fixed, delayed authorities trying to count how many homes and businesses were damaged. About 1,500 people were ordered out of the area for the night, she said, because officials feared more gas leaks could occur. A temporary shelter was set up at a fire station and officials were working to find other shelters.
"There are houses off their foundations," said State Police Trooper Stephen Hammons. "There are houses that have been destroyed."
The National Weather Service sent a team to investigate and confirmed a tornado had struck the area.
The system that hit Rayne quickly moved east and drenched New Orleans, where several Mardi Gras parades either were delayed, started earlier or canceled because of the severe weather.