Visions of Katrina: Ninth Ward Hardest Hit as Massive Storms, Tornadoes Devastate Louisiana

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Destroyed and damaged homes are seen in this aerial photo after a tornado tore through this eastern neighborhood in New Orleans. Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP

A dangerous wall of severe thunderstorms roared through southeast Louisiana on Tuesday, Feb. 7, unleashing several tornadoes across the state and parts of New Orleans. The violent storms, packed with high winds, blinding rain and lightning, were enough to prompt Gov. John Bel Edwards to declare a state of emergency.

The Times-Picayune reported that at least seven possible tornadoes touched down, tearing roofs off of homes and downing power lines from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. State officials don’t yet have an estimate on the damage, but local power giant Entergy reported that more than 10,600 customers were without power due to the powerful storms.

The tornadoes, including one that touched down near New Orleans and was recorded at half-a-mile wide, decimated over 5,000 properties in its path, yet not a single fatality was reported, local officials said. At least 20 residents suffered serious injuries, however, and were taken to nearby hospitals, according to Reuters.

“That is amazing,” Edwards said during a news conference Tuesday after the storms cleared. “I will tell you that the way [we] warn citizens now … is obviously working.”

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu also spoke at Tuesday’s news conference and likened the destructive storms to a to “an elephant stomping on your house.”

“We have suffered a terrible blow to the city of New Orleans,” he said. “You’ve been able to see the damage. It’s devastating. There are a lot of families that lost everything they have.”

Tornadoes also were reported near Ponchatoula and Donaldsonville, as well as east New Orleans, according to AccuWeather.com. NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, located just east of  New Orleans, also suffered extensive tornado damage. The core stage of NASA’s upcoming Space Launch System rocket is currently being constructed at the facility, the weather site reported

“We’ve been in this building for years,” said Robert Sturgis. “It’s going to take a long time to repair it.”

Some Louisiana residents who witnessed the violent storms took to social media to upload cell phone videos showing monstrous funnel clouds swirling to the ground, while others posted photos of several homes that had been decimated. Gwendolyn Wallace recalled watching the storm from her home, as high winds flipped her food truck over a broken down Chevy Beretta parked in her driveway.

“That truck weighs a ton,” Wallace told The Times-Picayune. “How’d that tornado do that? And how’d it miss that old raggedy Beretta, which is the only damn thing that didn’t get damaged?”

Sympathizers from across the country also took to social media to send their prayers and well wishes to those affected by the devastating storms. There’s still no word on how much it will cost the state to repair widespread damage caused by the twisters, but Gov. Edwards assured the community that Louisiana’s budgetary constraints wouldn’t hinder it from re-building after the storm.

“We’ve had our share of natural disasters,” he said. “Obviously, we have budgetary constraints. [But] the budgetary constraints will not prevent the state from doing everything we need to do to be good partners with the city of New Orleans and taking care of our constituents here.”

 

 

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