A tornado tore through parts of New Orleans and its suburbs Tuesday night, flipping cars, ripping roofs off homes and killing at least one person in a region that was pummeled by Hurricane Katrina 17 years ago.
A second tornado touched down at about the same time in Lacombe, just northeast of New Orleans, the National Weather Service said.
But parts of St. Bernard Parish, which borders New Orleans to the southeast, appeared to take the brunt of the weather’s fury, and that’s where the fatality occurred. St. Bernard Parish officials gave no details on how the person died, in tiny Arabi. They said multiple other people were injured.
Rescue workers were searching for more people in need of assistance, according to Sheriff Jimmy Pohlmann. Parish President Guy McInnis said the tornado caused widespread damage.
Other funnels spawned by the same storm systemand causing multiple injuries and widespread damage.
The National Weather Service confirmed a large tornado was on the ground in New Orleans around 7:30 p.m. local time on Tuesday. The city’s tornado warnings expired 20 minutes later, as the storm system moved east toward the Louisiana-Mississippi border.
New Orleans television stations broadcast live images of the storm as it barreled across the region.
“If you are in an area affected by tonight’s tornadoes and are in a safe place, stay put and listen to directions from local officials,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards tweeted. “Now is not the time for sightseeing.”
The twister appeared to start in a suburb and then move east across the Mississippi River into the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans and parts of St. Bernard Parish – both of which were badly damaged by Katrina – before moving northeast.
Many residents also suffered damage just last year when Hurricane Ida – a Category 4 hurricane – swept through the region.
Stacey Mancuso’s family had just completed repairs to their home in the suburb of Arabi after Ida ripped off the roof and caused extensive water damage. Then the tornado Tuesday tore through their street. She huddled in the laundry room with her husband; two children, ages 16 and 11; and dogs as part of their new roof was lifted away by the wind.
“We’re alive. That’s what I can say at this point. We still have four walls and part of a roof. I consider myself lucky,” said Mancuso. Still, the twister was the third time they’ve had major weather damage since Katrina in 2005.
In Arabi, there was a strong smell of natural gas in the air as residents and rescue personnel stood in the street and surveyed the damage. Some houses were destroyed while pieces of debris hung from electrical wires and trees. An aluminum fishing boat in front of one house was bent into the shape of a C with the motor across the street. Power poles were down and leaning over, forcing emergency workers to walk slowly through darkened neighborhoods checking for damage.
Arabi resident Michelle Malasovich says the storm left a neighbor’s house in the middle of the street. Down the street, a house was severely damaged, and parked vehicles had been moved around by the winds. “This is serious for down here,” she said.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell tweeted late Tuesday that there were no reports of casualties or significant damage to the city and that the power utility was working to restore electricity.
About 13,000 homes and businesses were reportedly without power in the three parishes around New Orleans. Entergy reported that about 3,500 remained without electricity early Wednesday morning.
While people in the metropolitan region are used to dealing with severe weather such as hurricanes or heavy rains, it’s rare that a tornado hits. One in 2017 caused widespread damage in the eastern part of the city.
The storm front reached Georgia Wednesday morning after dumping heavy rain, downing trees and prompting multiple tornado warnings in the Deep South.
After leaving the New Orleans area, the system dumped heavy rain, downed trees and prompted multiple tornado warnings as it moved into Alabama Tuesday evening. The roofs of several homes were damaged in Toxey, Alabama, after a storm preceded by tornado warnings passed through the area, the National Weather Service tweeted.
Forecasters had been predicting a line of intense weather moving from Texas eastward into the Deep South, and Monday started out with some vicious weather in Texas.
Several tornadoes were reported along the Interstate 35 corridor. In Elgin, broken trees lined the rural roads and pieces of metal – uprooted by strong winds – hung from the branches. Residents stepped carefully to avoid downed power lines as they worked to clean the remnants of broken ceilings, torn down walls and damaged cars.
Homes and businesses in at least a dozen Texas counties were damaged, according to Storm Prediction Center reports. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a disaster declaration for 16 hard-hit counties. Abbott said 10 people were injured by storms in the Crockett area, while more than a dozen were reportedly hurt elsewhere.
The Grayson County Emergency Management Office said a 73-year-old woman was killed in the community of Sherwood Shores, about 60 miles north of Dallas, but provided no details.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism