A 26-year-old man was reported dead after first responders found him outside his home in the Arabi neighborhood around 10 p.m. local time, according to John Lane, spokesman for St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis .
Other residents were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, Lane told The Washington Post early Wednesday.
He said the Arabi neighborhood, between the Lower 9th Ward and Chalmette, was the most hit by tornado.
“There was severe devastation,” Lane said. “We have houses that have been completely razed. We have houses that have been moved [their] foundations and suffered severe structural damage.
Lane said he hasn’t seen this kind of devastation since Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in southeast Louisiana on August 29, 2005.
As large swathes of New Orleans were devastated by Hurricane Katrina, he told the Post that what happened Tuesday night “is much more localized – two different types of devastation but nonetheless it’s important. “.
By early Wednesday, community members and first responders had already started walking through a maze of downed power lines blocking the streets to watch over residents.
“We can’t wait for the morning to come out and assess the damage,” Lane told the Post.
The New Orleans Fire Department is responding to reports of injuries and people being trapped, according to the weather channel. The Louisiana Office of the State Fire Marshal reported that search and rescue teams have been dispatched and response officers are on scene in Arabi.
Social media footage revealed a large and powerful tornado tearing through the night sky. It appeared to be a multi-vortex twister, with at least one additional funnel orbiting a wedge-shaped primary cone.
“It’s something I hope I never see,” New Orleans meteorologist Margaret Orr told viewers as her station, WDSU, captured the tornado in the distance.
About 2,200 people were without power in St. Bernard Parish as of early Wednesday, and another 4,200 people had lost power in Jefferson and Orleans Parishes, according to PowerOutageUS.com.
Governor John Bel Edwards (D) said state and local authorities were assessing the damage. “My prayers are with you in southeast Louisiana tonight,” he said in a Tweeter. “Please be careful.”
How the tornado evolved and its path
The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning southwest of New Orleans at 7 p.m. Central Time. The rotation tightened significantly around 7:20 a.m. as traffic approached Destrehan Avenue in Woodmere, a southern suburb of New Orleans. The tornado warning was extended to the city of New Orleans at 7:18 p.m.
Doppler radar indicated a sudden increase in spectrum width, or a radar product that shows in pixels how chaotic the range of wind motions/speeds is. A sudden spike in readings over Woodmere indicated turbulence commensurate with a possible tornado.
At 7:22 p.m., the possible tornado was entering neighborhoods along Redwood Drive in the Timberlane area.
The rotation then arrived in Gretna at 7:24 p.m., forming on the commercial route of Highway 90 with a “donut hole” signature on radar, indicating an updraft so strong it suspended precipitation. The tornado was described as “large” and was confirmed by a National Weather Service employee at 7:25 p.m., when video of it was broadcast live on New Orleans area television stations.
Radar data indicates the tornado passed directly over the Terrytown area at 7:26 p.m., likely damaging areas around the Oakwood Center mall. A number of subdivisions of this area were in the direct path of the damaging tornado.
At 7:28 p.m., the tornado was just west of Shirley Drive near Behrman Memorial Park and near Harriet Tubman Charter School. Delgado Community College and Gilmore Park Apartments were either directly affected or uncomfortably close to the tornado.
Video broadcast live by television news stations showed horizontal swirls breaking away from the tornado’s main trunk-shaped vortex – a sign of intense vertical motion and winds approaching or exceeding 130 mph.
The tornado ripped through the Arabi neighborhood at 7:29 p.m. after crossing the Mississippi River. It appears to have entered the Lower 9th Ward near the St. Bernard Indoor Shooting Center or just west of the rail yard near American Sugar Refining.
A number of neighborhoods suffered heavy damage, some houses were destroyed. A “debris ball” appeared on radar near West Jackson Drive at 7:32 p.m. The tornado then tracked east of New Orleans and likely weakened as it approached Interstate 10. It is unclear if it crossed the freeway before dissipating around 7:45 p.m.
The parent storm developed at the end of a cold front passing through the region. The risk of strong tornadoes had been announced, but the focus was further north. However, this storm had something the others didn’t: isolation. It was a solitary, low-profile supercell, allowing it to tap into wind shear without competing with its neighbors. Unfortunately, this resulted in the storm reaching its full destructive potential.
Early videos on social media indicate damage in at least the EF2 range, with an EF3 tornado or higher possible. The National Weather Service in Slidell, Louisiana, said it would send personnel to assess the damage.