News Wrap: Three killed by tornadoes in Louisiana, including mother and child

In our news wrap Thursday, a storm system impacted the South with tornadoes killing three people in Louisiana, stocks dropped sharply on fears that the Federal Reserve will keep raising interest rates to break inflation even it causes a recession, the U.S. government will resume making free COVID tests available to all households and Harvard University named its first Black president.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A gigantic winter storm system that's moved across the U.S. is now reaching the Atlantic Coast, after blitzing the South with tornadoes. The scattershot storms there killed three people in Louisiana.

    Roby Chavez reports from New Orleans.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Just days ago, this pile of debris was a home. On Wednesday, the woman who lived there, lost her life to a tornado.

  • Speaker:

    The car was in front of this mobile home.

  • Roby Chavez:

    In Killona, Louisiana, many people living in trailers, still recovering from Hurricane Ida last year, had their lives flipped upside down once again. They described the moment the storm struck.

  • Rodney Wood, Killona Resident:

    The awesomeness of it, the fierceness, the force of it just in a matter of seconds can just change your whole life.

  • Roby Chavez:

    And what they saw when they woke up today.

  • Daune Pierre, Killona Resident:

    It looked like a bomb went off, actually.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Louisiana's governor toured the state today to see the damage.

  • Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA):

    If you're in one of those families who, 10 days before Christmas, you just lost a loved one, or someone was hospitalized, or you just lost your home, then this weather event was as bad as it could get.

  • Roby Chavez:

    He said that as many as 10 to 15 different tornadoes formed in 24 hours, from the hardest-hit town of Killona to New Orleans.

    The twisters ran parallel to highways and ripped through buildings, leaving destruction in their wake. This used to be a rare sight around New Orleans, but it's the second time this year that the city has seen cyclones.

  • Speaker:

    Get inside! Get inside!

  • Roby Chavez:

    The unusual storm system that created them in the South produced an arctic blast in the Midwest, burying towns and cities in deep snow.

    In Nebraska, the blizzard shut part of an interstate this week, forcing trucks off the road. From Montana to New England, the coast-to-coast storm is expected to continue sweeping the country. The severe winter weather in the Midwest will likely hit New England late tonight, bringing rain and icy roads, just in time for holiday travel.

    In New Orleans, for the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Roby Chavez.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Storm clouds of a different sort overtook Wall Street today.

    Stocks dropped sharply on fears that the Federal Reserve will keep raising interest rates to break inflation, even if it causes a recession. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 764 points to close at 33202. That's down 2.25 percent. The Nasdaq fell 360 points, more than 3 percent. And the S&P 500 dropped 2.5 percent.

    The federal government will resume making free COVID tests available to all U.S. households. The White House announced today that each home may order up to four at-home tests online at no cost. That policy had been suspended for three months, but cases have risen sharply since Thanksgiving.

    So, officials will now draw on the stockpile.

  • Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator:

    We knew there would be a moment later in the year when COVID cases would rise again. So, we kept — we preserved the tests so we could have them on hand for exactly this moment.

    And if we don't get more funding, we won't be able to send more tests out to the American people.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So far, Congress has not agreed to provide new funding for free tests.

    Meanwhile, China's government counseled calm today as infections there surge. The Foreign Ministry pointed to what it called institutional advantages to help the nation cope. The spike in cases has triggered long lines at COVID testing centers and fever clinics in Beijing and elsewhere. And there have been runs on various medicines.

    In Ukraine, government officials warned today that Russia's goal is now a long-term conflict to wear down Ukraine's forces. The war is already in its 10th month. In Kyiv today, the Defense Ministry said there is no sign that Moscow is interred by its recent losses.

  • Hanna Maliar, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister (through translator):

    We and the world should not relax, because the ultimate goal of the Russian Federation is to conquer all of Ukraine.

    And then, if they reach this goal, they will move on to other countries. The world should understand this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In Washington today, Pentagon officials said that the U.S. military will use the winter months to expand combat training for Ukraine's troops.

    And back in this country, Harvard University has named its first Black president. Claudine Gay is currently a dean at the school. She will be the only Black president currently leading an Ivy League school. She will also be just the second woman to hold the top post at Harvard.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": President Biden pledges more support and investment at a summit of African nations; two literary critics give their takes on the best of books of 2022; a new musical explores Neil Diamond's life and career; plus much more.

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