A large tornado touched down in New Orleans on Tuesday evening, causing damage and destruction to the city’s lower ninth ward, before traveling east into the neighboring parish of St Bernard, where officials reported multiple injuries and one death.
The tornado occurred as a major storm system continued to tear through parts of the US south, killing another person in Texas and injuring more than two dozen.
Officials in St Bernard reported on Tuesday night there were at least two people trapped in their homes after the tornado struck the Arabi neighborhood, which is part of the New Orleans metro area. One person had been killed, according to reports in the Advocate, which cited parish officials who provided no further information.
Entergy New Orleans reported power outages throughout the affected neighborhoods and advised its crews were still assessing damage into Tuesday night.
Both the lower ninth ward and Arabi were badly hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The towering tornado struck the city at about 7:30pm and could be seen at locations around eastern New Orleans. Images posted to social media showed downed pylons and property destruction in its wake as residents were advised to seek shelter.
The full extent of damage was not immediately cleared by Tuesday night.
The tornado appeared to start in a New Orleans suburb and then move east across the Mississippi River into the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans and parts of St Bernard Parish before moving north-east.
Guy McGinnis, president of St Bernard Parish, told WWL-TV that the parish had “widespread damage” in areas that border New Orleans to the east.
Southeast Louisiana continues to reel from the effects of Hurricane Ida, which came ashore last year on the fifteenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and caused widespread devastation throughout the region.
While the metropolitan region is often struck by severe weather and heavy rains, it’s relatively rare for a large tornado to strike. The city was last hit by a major tornado in 2017, damaging over 600 homes and injuring 33 people. A smaller tornado hit the city in 2021.
Elsewhere, high winds uprooted trees in Ridgeland, Mississippi, about 12 miles (19 km) north of Jackson, as a possible tornado passed Tuesday afternoon, but there were no immediate reports of any injuries or serious damage to buildings. Campus police at Mississippi State University, in Starkville, shared a photo of a large hardwood tree lying across a street.
Forecasters issued multiple tornado warnings for the state, and alerts spread into Alabama as the line of storms moved eastward. More than 90,000 homes and businesses were left without power from Texas to Mississippi.
Many schools were closing early or canceling after-school activities Tuesday in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi to allow students to get home before the weather deteriorated. Shelters opened for residents who need a place to stay while the storms traveled through.
The storms were expected to intensify throughout the day as temperatures rise, increasing the threat of tornadoes, hail and strong winds. Forecasters predicted intense tornadoes and damaging winds, some hurricane force with speeds of 75 mph or greater, in much of Mississippi, southern and eastern Louisiana, and western Alabama. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi, were among the cities at risk for bad weather.
The system dumped heavy rain, downed trees and prompted multiple tornado warnings as it moved into Alabama on Tuesday evening.
Louisiana’s federal and state authorities reminded thousands of hurricane survivors living in government-provided mobile homes and recreational vehicle trailers to have an evacuation plan because the structures might not withstand the expected weather. More than 8,000 households live in such temporary quarters, officials said.
In Texas, several tornadoes were reported Monday along the Interstate 35 corridor, particularly in the Austin suburbs of Round Rock and Elgin, as well as in northern and eastern Texas and southern Oklahoma.
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.
JD Harkins, 59, said he saw two tornadoes pass by his Elgin home.
“There used to be a barn there,” Harkins said, pointing to an empty plot on his uncle’s property covered with scattered debris.
“It was crystal clear, well defined,” Harkins said, describing the first tornadoes arrival. “And then one went up and another one came down.”
The tornadoes came on a wild weather day in Texas, as wildfires burned in the west and a blizzard warning was issued for the Texas Panhandle, where up to 9 inches (23 centimeters) of snow fell.
At news conferences in Jacksboro and Crockett, two Texas communities severely damaged by tornadoes, Governor 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 (95 km) north of Dallas, but provided no details.
With Associated Press
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism