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One Killed When Tornado Tears Through Louisiana Town

Louisiana Tornado

March 5: Residents look at damage from a suspected tornado that injured at least nine people, leveling homes and causing natural gas leaks that prompted evacuations in Rayne, La.AP

At least one person was killed, and 12 others injured, when a tornado struck the southwestern Louisiana town of Rayne Saturday.

Rayne Mayor Jimbo Petitjean told KATC.com that a mother was protecting her young daughter when a tree fell on their home.

Maxine Trahan, a spokeswoman for the Acadia Parish Sheriff's Office, identified the victim as 21-year-old Jalisa Granger.

"She sheltered the child to protect her from the storm and a tree fell on the house and it killed the mother but the child was OK," Trahan said, adding that a relative who lived nearby found them.

The tornado also ripped homes off their foundations and causing natural gas leaks that prompted evacuations of up to 1,500 people.

Authorities say more than 100 homes and businesses were either damaged or destroyed.

"It's a mess back there -- a lot of damage," Trahan said.

Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency for severe weather in south Louisiana.

The destruction hit the Acadia Parish town of about 8,500 around 10 a.m. as a line of violent thunderstorms moved through the area. Left behind the storms was a swath of damage about a quarter of a mile wide to three miles long.

State Police Trooper Stephen Hammons said several houses have been destroyed or damaged, and the area has been evacuated because of natural gas leaks. Utility crews were going door-to-door to check for leaks, and residents were sent to a fire station to take shelter.

"There are houses off their foundations," he said. "There are houses that have been destroyed."

There were reports of at least two ruptured gas lines, Jones said.

Trees and power lines had been knocked down across about an eighth of a mile, said Acadian Ambulance supervisor Troy Guidry. He said at least a dozen people have been taken to area hospitals, one with serious injuries.

A storm system was moving across Louisiana, and Jones said it could make its way through Mississippi and Alabama in the next day or so.

The system that hit Rayne was moving east, and conditions Jones said. A tornado watch had been issued for southeastern Louisiana, and conditions were still favorable for twisters to form, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.