RAYNE, La. -- A suspected tornado hit the southwestern Louisiana town of Rayne on Saturday, injuring at least nine people, leveling homes and causing natural gas leaks that prompted evacuations.
Donald Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, said Saturday that a crew is headed to the scene to determine if the high winds were a tornado. 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.
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 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 nine people have been taken to area hospitals, one with serious injuries and eight with minor 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.
Most of the system that hit Rayne was moving east and would be heading into the New Orleans area in the afternoon, Jones said. A tornado watch was in effect for southeastern Louisiana until 4 p.m. CST, and conditions were still favorable for twisters to form, he said.