NEW ORLEANS – Search and rescue teams inspected heavily damaged homes and debris-filled streets on Wednesday after tornadoes tore through the New Orleans area the night before, killing at least one resident and cutting off the electricity to thousands of people.
the National Weather Service confirmed that two tornadoes hit the area: one in Lacombe, north of the city across Lake Pontchartrain, and another that tore through both the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans and St. -Bernard, sending several people to the hospital. The Weather Service classified the St. Bernard tornado as at least an EF-3, characterized by wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph, making it the strongest tornado to hit the region since 2017.
Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana has declared a state of emergency in four parishes in the New Orleans area. “Unfortunately, our people are all too familiar with rebuilding after tragedy and loss, but it’s never easy,” the governor said in a statement. “I promised local leaders that we will be there to support their long-term recovery efforts.”
During a press briefing, he urged insurers to work quickly with residents who are now forced to rebuild. “We’re asking insurance companies to do the right thing, just give people the benefit of the premium dollars they’ve paid, treat them with respect, and conduct themselves in good faith,” he said. -he declares.
A 25-year-old man was killed in the storm and seven people were treated for minor injuries at a hospital on Tuesday evening, said Guy McInnis, president of St. Bernard Parish.
When the sun rose on Wednesday, Mr McInnis said he was grateful for the clear weather, which would aid response efforts. “And the next thought was, how did no one else die in this event?” he said. “It’s just amazing what these tornadoes do.”
About 120 workers went door to door looking for residents who might not have been able to call for help, said Butch Browning, the state fire marshal. He estimated that about 8,500 people lived in 2,600 residences within the search perimeter set up along the tornado’s apparent two-mile path.
Residents of southeast Louisiana are more accustomed to dealing with hurricanes, which usually come with a several-day warning, Browning noted. And because much of the region is at or below sea level, there are few basements for shelter. Still, he said, the low number of injuries indicated residents had managed to get to safety in the interior rooms.
Authorities reported extensive damage to about 50 buildings. The destruction was concentrated in the Arabi community.
There, the streets were littered with scraps of wood and wire, clumps of grass from the nearby swamp, and puffs of pink insulation.
Some locals, assessing the damage and checking on neighbors, described a terrifying ordeal.
After the tornado passed Tuesday night, Aaron and Nerissa Ledet heard an eerie silence, then screams. A neighbour’s house had been blown up in the middle of the street. Inside, a 22-year-old woman who was dependent on a ventilator and an oxygen cylinder was trapped, unable to move or breathe.
Mr. Ledet and a few other neighbors rushed into the house, despite a cracked central wall that caused the building to sway in the wind. Ultimately, an eight-person search and rescue team was needed to extricate the woman from the construction debris and furniture.
Many residents expressed their gratitude that the human toll had not been greater.
The house owned by Jim and Judy Norwalt has lost its roof and porch. “I bet it didn’t take 15 seconds. It was quick, so quick,’ said Ms Norwalt, 66, who had pulled her 87-year-old mother out of a recliner and lay on top of her as a shower curtain blew across the room, propelling by a brick that had flown through the bathroom window.
Mr. Norwalt, 66, was nearby on the hallway floor as the tornado ripped off the roof and ceiling of their bedroom, which is now in the open.
Yet on Wednesday morning, Ms Norwalt said she was feeling almost optimistic. They had spent the night with their two cats in their partly ruined house. “We are safe,” she said. “And I’m not going anywhere else. We’ll just have a new roof. Obviously, we still have life to do.
John Bauman, a local plumber, said his Success Street block in Arabi was left fairly untouched. But a block away, around a short curve, the damage was severe.
Mr Bauman, 45, pointed to a cottage with jagged roof rafters and walls splaying downwards.
“Looks like they were at home – their two vehicles are here,” he said, wondering aloud about the fate of the residents. “How did they manage to pass?”
Another house, where Mr. Bauman had once worked on the pipes, had no roof at all. The insulation hung over two walls like a pink feather boa.
Chris Dier of St. Bernard Parish recalled the sight of flying debris and the sound of a loud roar. “It was like nothing I had ever heard before,” said Mr. Dier, a high school history teacher.
The tornado skipped his home, but about two blocks away a church was destroyed, homes were flattened and vehicles were overturned and covered in debris.
Classes at Arabi Primary School were canceled on Wednesday as crews repaired the roof and windows. Carla Carollo, the principal, said school buses were rocked and some streets leading to the school were blocked with debris.
Ms Carollo said the school would most likely reopen as soon as power was restored. She hoped it would be soon, she said, because it was the safest place for her students as their parents started over after losing everything.
The tornado came as a robust spring storm system that has been blamed for at least one more death this week moved through the Deep South.
A tornado last hit New Orleans in February 2017, with winds estimated by the National Weather Service up to 150 miles per hour. This storm damaged more than 600 homes and injured 33 people.