Tornado in the New Orleans area: Crews search devastated neighborhoods after a tornado kills one and leaves thousands without power

A twister killed one person and caused major damage in the Arabi district of St. Petersburg. Bernard Parish just outside New Orleans Tuesday night, Parish President Guy McInnis told CNN. Seven other people were treated for minor injuries, he said.

Some houses collapsed; others were pulled from their foundation and left in the streets. Roofs were torn down by others and vehicles were overturned.

Streets and courtyards were filled with wood, metal and disused power lines. An overturned school bus ended 100 meters from where it had been parked.

“It’s a 2-mile stretch (with damage). … We have stretches of streets where there are no homes now,” McInnis told CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday.

Given the damage, “it was a miracle” that more people were not killed or injured, McInnis said.

The tornado that hit Arabi landed in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East community just before 8 p.m. Tuesday, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said.

About 50 structures had some damage in New Orleans East, but no injuries or significant damage were reported in the city, officials said Wednesday afternoon.

The twister had winds of at least 136 mph, meaning it rated at least one EF-3 on the improved Fujita scale, the National Weather Service said.
By hitting eastern New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish, this twister touched on some of the areas worst affected by 2005’s hurricane Katrina and last year’s hurricane Ida. Workers are now focused on tornado cleanup and recovery, McInnis said.

“We’ve been through this, it looks like a gazillion times, but we’re good at it, and we’re going to get started this morning,” McInnis said.

Officials believe relief workers have ransacked all affected homes in St. Louis. Bernard Parish, said McInnis.

A separate tornado landed Tuesday night around Lacombe in St. Louis. Tammany Parish, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. It informs National Weather Service. Dozens of trees were broken, a shed was destroyed and some minor roof damage was reported, according to the weather service.
No injuries were reported immediately in Lacombe, though some homes were left without power, the parish government said said on Twitter.
The tornado in the Lacombe area was on the ground for 12.2 miles and had a maximum width of 100 yards, the weather service said. The headwind was tentatively estimated at 90 mph, giving it an EC-1 rating, the weather service said.
A car is overturned among rubbish in the Arabi district after a major tornado hit.

The family appeared under a mattress as the tornado passed

Arab resident Damary’s Olea said she, her husband and children – aged 6 and 8 – covered themselves with a mattress in a bathroom of their house while the tornado roared through the area.

Her house was largely spared even though all the windows had been blown out. Submerged power lines were draped over her cars, her house and her yard.

Olea felt a pressure in her ears as the tornado approached, and at one point she felt like she had been blacked out, she said.

“We felt the pressure and it was scary. It was like being in a movie,” Olea said. “The wind, the pressure, the noise, the house shaking … it just felt like a train was passing by.”

Garbage has been strewn across the ground in the Arabi district after a major tornado hit the New Orleans area Tuesday.

Also in Arabi, Christine Wiecek said she and her husband Rob Patchus consider themselves lucky to have ridden out of the tornado in their home.

Their carport, fences and gutters suffered significant damage, and projectiles made relatively small holes in their roof, Wiecek said. One of their cars has a smashed windshield, but both vehicles can still drive.

“When the clock turned into a warning, I turned off the stove, we grabbed the cats and went into an inside bathroom, one room without windows,” she said. “Within two minutes the storm passed over us. It was really loud, the house was shaking and we could not prevent the poor, frightened cats from running around like crazy in the small room.”

“I was sitting on the floor with my back to the door and could feel wind coming under the door even though the doors and windows were closed,” she said.

The neighborhood was closed to traffic Wednesday morning, except for emergency vehicles, Wiecek said.

“There is so much waste that we are not sure what is under it all yet,” she said.

Christine Wiecek's carport in Arabi was severely damaged, but her cars were still able to drive, she said.

The governor declares an emergency and thousands are without power

A tornado may also have hit Tuesday in nearby Jefferson Parish, according to a tweet from the parish government. No injuries or major damage were immediately reported there, according to the tweet.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency on Wednesday due to injuries in the parishes of St. Louis. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany, informs his office.

Edwards planned to tour damaged areas on Wednesday, he continued Twitter.

“Unfortunately this morning many of our people are waking up with their lives upside down due to the tragic tornadoes last night in the parishes of St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany. Unfortunately, one person died in the storm and we pray , that there are no more fatalities, “Edwards said in a press release Wednesday.

About 3,000 homes and businesses were without power in Orleans and St. Louis. Bernard parish from kl. 13 CT Wednesday – down from more than 10,000 late Tuesday, according to Crews worked to restore power to those affected, Cantrell said.
A camera from CNN-affiliated WDSU caught a tornado hitting the New Orleans area Tuesday night.

Arabi Elementary School was closed Wednesday, St. Bernard Parish Public School System. “All other public schools in St. Bernard Parish will be open and follow normal schedules,” the district said.

New Orleans police and other relief workers were staged to help in St. Louis. Bernard Parish, said Cantrell.

“Residents should avoid any non-essential travel to allow professionals to deal with this situation,” she said.

CNN’s Alisha Ebrahimji, Kelly McCleary, Steve Almasy, Devon Sayers, Monica Garrett, Gregory Lemos and Tina Burnside contributed to this report.

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