The remains of a trailer lie where a woman and her 3-year-old daughter were killed during a severe storm, in Breaux Bridge, La., Sunday, April 2, 2017. (Lucius Fontenot/The Daily Advertiser via AP)

Storms force school closings after killing 2 in Louisiana

April 03, 2017 - 9:39 am

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Powerful storms that killed a woman and her young daughter in Louisiana drenched Alabama with torrential rains Monday, forcing scores of schools to call off classes.

Forecasters said tornadoes and strong winds were likely from Mississippi to South Carolina. The greatest tornado risk was centered over southern Alabama, the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma said.

Administrators across southern Alabama canceled classes rather than have children traveling to school amid torrential rains. Those public school systems included two of the state's largest in Mobile and Montgomery.

Forecasters said about 3 inches of rain already had fallen in parts of western Alabama and the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for the southern end of the state. Alabama Power said more than 27,000 homes and businesses were without electricity.

A tornado flipped a mobile home Sunday in Bruex Bridge, Louisiana, killing a mother and her 3-year-old daughter. The storm also brought hurricane-force winds, large hail and sparked flash flooding. Up to 6 inches of rain fell in some areas.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards put the entire state on "high alert" and warned residents to stay off the roads. He urged people to keep their cellphones charged and close by so they could get severe weather alerts through Monday.

"It is an extremely dangerous weather event," he said.

A tornado with peak winds of 110 mph (180 kph) traveled for nearly 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) on the ground in the rural community of Breaux Bridge, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Baton Rouge, the National Weather Service reported.

St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Maj. Ginny Higgins told The Associated Press that the tornado touched down soon after a warning was issued.

"Seconds later it hit," Higgins said. "It hit the trailer, flipped it and tore its side off. There was a mother and daughter inside and both were killed."

Higgins said 38-year-old Francine Gotch and 3-year-old Nevaeh Alexander were pronounced dead at the scene. Witnesses told KLFY-TV that the father was at the store when the storm hit and returned home to find the bodies amid the splintered debris.

Relatives described those killed as a fun-loving pair who smiled frequently.

Nevaeh "was the sweetest little girl," said Sheryle Rubin, who's engaged to the girl's uncle. "She was only 3 years old but was the smartest girl in the world. She would've started school in August."

Another hard-hit area in Louisiana was the city of Alexandria, where winds blew off the roof of a gas station and knocked out power to thousands, KALB reported. Customers and storm employees sought shelter in a beer cooler.

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