(CNN) — A widespread weather system across the southern United States has left a trail of devastation in Louisiana, killing at least three people and injuring dozens as violent tornadoes tore down, toppling homes, turning debris into projectiles and turned off the power.
According to the Louisiana Department of Health, the deaths from the storm-related incidents included a 56-year-old woman who died after a tornado struck her home in the Kelowna area of St. Charles Parish.
In addition, a boy and his mother were found dead after a tornado destroyed their home Tuesday in the northwest Louisiana community of Keithville, the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office said. The bodies of the mother and son were found hours away from where their home used to be, officials said.
Several communities in Louisiana reported devastation, with roofs ripped off, homes destroyed, streets strewn with debris, and cars overturned. According to PowerOutage.us, more than 50,000 customers went down power lines in Louisiana and Mississippi on Wednesday night without power. The number had come down to less than 15,000 in the early hours of Thursday.
According to the Storm Prediction Center, there were at least 49 reports of tornadoes in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday. More tornado reports are likely to come as surveyors continue to confirm damage.
And the danger is not over yet. According to CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford, more than 15 million people could see severe weather Thursday in parts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.
As of 9 a.m. Thursday, more than 1.5 million people were on a tornado watch in southeast Alabama, northern Florida and southern Georgia. Strong tornadoes are still possible, as well as quarter-size hail and powerful wind gusts of up to 70 mph.
Heavy storms across Louisiana and throughout the Southeast are part of a larger system that has also brought snow storms to the north-central US.
By Thursday, the storms are expected to weaken slightly, but there is a threat of severe weather across much of Florida, coastal Georgia and the coastal Carolinas. Shackelford said damaging winds, large hail and isolated tornadoes could occur in cities including Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Savannah and Charleston.
‘A Long Road to Destruction’
In Louisiana, damage has been widespread, affecting several communities, prompting Gov. John Bel Edwards to declare a state of emergency.
Mayor Belinda Constant said about 5,000 structures were expected to be damaged by a tornado in the city of Gretna, across the Mississippi River from New Orleans.
Farther north, at least 20 people were injured in the small Union Parish town of Farmerville when a tornado struck Tuesday night, destroying an apartment complex and parts of a mobile home park, detectives said. Farmerville Police Officer Cade Nolan.
Patty Andrews was at home with her children in Farmerville when she heard “the wind like a train” outside, she told CNN affiliate KNOE-TV.
When he went to investigate, his son asked him not to open the door, but it was too late.
“All of a sudden the wind was so strong it blew my back door off,” Andrews said. “The lights went out and we could hear glass breaking everywhere.”
She said she and her daughter fell to the floor, crawling into a hallway as glass shattered around them and water leaked from the ceiling. They took refuge in her bathroom.
“We got in the bathtub and hugged each other. We kept praying and I kept calling out to Jesus,” Andrews said. Her family survived the storm, but their home was damaged.
In the Algiers area of New Orleans, four residents were taken to hospitals due to storm surge on the west bank of the Mississippi River, Colin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, told CNN. Arnold said at least one house collapsed in the area and other residences and businesses were affected.
St. Bernard Parish officials reported “significant damage” in Arby, where a tornado touched down, they said, leaving much of the area without power.
St. Bernard Parish Sheriff James Pohlmann said crews in Arby’s would conduct a search and rescue operation throughout the night. Polman said ten people were rescued due to bad weather, but there were no reports of serious injuries or deaths.
Cindy Deluca Hernandez thought she could beat the storm as she walked home after picking up her 16-year-old son from school. But during the journey he found himself facing a tornado.
“It was terrifying, I’ve never been through anything like this,” Hernandez said.
In video shared with CNN, she waits at a red light as a tornado rips through Arabia, whipping up debris and downing power lines.
“We started seeing debris and it hit us several times and that’s when I reversed the car,” he said. Hernandez and his son made it to a safe house.
Jefferson Parish Councilman Scott Walker said he saw at least one debris trail more than a mile long.
“Power lines down, houses severely damaged, roofs torn off,” he said in a video shared online describing the scene. “This is the scene of a long road of widespread damage and destruction.”
Two schools in Jefferson Parish were damaged by the storm and were expected to remain closed Thursday.
Police Captain Leland Lasseter said on Facebook: “The Iberia Medical Center is badly damaged.” CNN has sought comment from the medical center.
The New Iberia Police Department reported on Facebook that two tornadoes struck the city, damaging several homes and people were reported trapped in the Southport subdivision.
Tornado damages homes in Texas and Oklahoma
The storm also caused damage in Texas and Oklahoma as it moved south earlier this week, spawning tornadoes.
In Texas, at least seven people were injured in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Tuesday, including at least five in the city of Grapevine. Two tornadoes were reported in Grapevine, where police said a shopping center and other businesses were damaged.
An EF2 tornado touched down in Wise County near the communities of Paradise and Decatur, damaging homes and businesses, officials said. Videos showed houses scattered, while roofs were ripped off in Decatur.
In Wayne, Oklahoma, an EF2 tornado damaged homes, outbuildings and barns early Tuesday, officials said. No injuries were reported, but homes were flattened or roofs were torn off, video from CNN affiliate KOCO shows.
CNN’s Sharif Paget, Joe Sutton, Andy Rose, Amanda Moses, Maureen Chowdhry and Dave Heinen contributed to this report.