A tornado ripped through parts of New Orleans and its suburbs on Tuesday night, flipping cars and ripping roofs off homes and killing at least one person in an area that was hit by Hurricane Katrina 17 years ago .
Parts of St. Bernard Parish, which borders New Orleans to the southeast, seemed to bear the brunt of the fury of time, and that’s where the death occurred. St. Bernard parish officials gave no details of the person’s death; they said several other people were injured.
Rescuers were searching the suburban parish for more people in need, according to Sheriff Jimmy Pohlmann. St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis said the tornado caused extensive damage throughout the parish.
The damage comes after other tornadoes spawned by the same storm system hit parts of Texas and Oklahoma, killing one person Monday and causing multiple injuries and widespread damage.
In New Orleans, video taken by a local television station on Tuesday showed a large black funnel visible in the dark sky looming among buildings in the eastern part of the city.
The tornado appeared to start in a suburb of New Orleans, then move east across the Mississippi River into New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward and parts of St. Bernard Parish – all of which have two were badly damaged by Katrina – before moving northeast.
Reggie Ford was nearby in Arabia when the tornado struck. He left the area by car, returning once she passed, to offer help to anyone who needed it. He said the streets were eerily quiet, only filled with further devastation from the tornado.
“I see downed power lines. A church is completely destroyed. Three businesses are completely destroyed. There are eight city blocks without a roof,” the New Orleans resident said. The video he posted on Instagram shows streets littered with debris and jagged buildings. A dented car was overturned on its roof.
In the New Orleans suburb of Arabi, there was a strong smell of natural gas in the air as residents and emergency personnel stood in the street and surveyed the damage. Some homes were destroyed as pieces of debris hung from power lines and trees. An aluminum fishing boat in front of a house was bent into a C shape with the motor across the street. Power poles had fallen and bent, forcing rescuers to walk slowly through dark neighborhoods to check for damage.
Michelle Malasovich lives in Arabi. Initially, she was worried about her family who live in areas north of Louisiana that were also affected by bad weather. She was texting with her family there when, she said, “All of a sudden the lights started flickering.”
Her husband was on the porch and saw the tornado coming.
“It just kept getting stronger and stronger,” Malasovich said. After he passed, they went out to see the damage. “Our neighbor’s house is in the middle of the street right now.”
Malasovich’s household did relatively well, she said. Some columns were blown off the porch and the windows of his Jeep were blown out. At the end of the street, a house was badly damaged and parked vehicles were moved by the winds: “It’s serious for here.”
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell tweeted Tuesday night that there were no reports of casualties or significant damage in the city and that the electric utility was working to restore power. electricity to the 8,000 customers affected.
About 13,000 homes and businesses were reported to have been without power in the three parishes around New Orleans after the storm.
While residents of the metropolitan area are used to dealing with extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes or heavy rains, it is rare for a tornado to pass through the city. A 2017 tornado caused extensive damage when it touched down in the eastern part of the city.
Ahead of the inclement weather, many schools closed early or canceled after-school activities Tuesday in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi to allow students to return home before the weather deteriorates. Shelters were opened for residents who needed a place to stay as the storms rolled through.
Federal and state authorities in Louisiana have reminded thousands of hurricane survivors living in government-provided mobile homes and RV trailers to have an evacuation plan as the structures may not hold up to the expected weather conditions. More than 8,000 households live in these temporary accommodations, officials said.
After leaving the New Orleans area, the system dumped heavy rain, downed trees and triggered multiple tornado warnings as it moved through Alabama on 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 predicted an intense weather line moving eastward from Texas into the Deep South, and Monday started with vicious Texas weather.
In Texas, multiple tornadoes were reported Monday along the Interstate 35 corridor. In Elgin, broken trees lined rural roads and bits of metal, uprooted by high winds, hung from branches. Residents exercised caution to avoid downed power lines as they worked to clean up the remains of shattered ceilings, demolished walls and damaged cars.
JD Harkins, 59, said he saw two tornadoes pass his Elgin home.
“There was a barn there,” Harkins said, pointing to an empty lot on his uncle’s property covered in scattered debris. He said the building was empty when the first tornado hit Monday and his family is grateful no one was hurt.
Homes and businesses in at least a dozen Texas counties were damaged, according to reports from the Storm Prediction Center. Texas 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 reported injured elsewhere.
The Grayson County Emergency Management Office said a 73-year-old woman was killed in the community of Sherwood Shores, about 95 miles north of Dallas, but offered no details.
Associated Press reporters Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Kimberly Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama; Julie Walker in New York; Ken Miller in Oklahoma City; Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas; Terry Wallace in Dallas; Janet McConnaughy in New Orleans and Alina Hartounian in Phoenix, Arizona, and Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas contributed to this report.