Homes are without roofs, cars have been flipped over and a second person has died as severe thunderstorms and tornadoes continue to pummel the South as part of the same system that wreaked havoc in Texas and Oklahoma on Monday.
This week, the National Weather Service has issued hundreds of tornado watches and warnings in Gulf Coast states including Florida and Georgia.
On Tuesday night, a storm ripped through the New Orleans metropolitan area in Louisiana. Videos from various sources showed huge clouds forming into deadly twisters. Meteorologists said that “current damage reviewed shows at least EF-3” tornado damage occurred in the Arabi area of St. Bernard Parish.
St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis said that at least one person was killed and multiple injuries were reported by the tornado in Arabi, but didn’t provide more details.
Throughout the night, there were reports of people trapped in bathrooms and under debris, but by Wednesday morning, no one was missing or trapped in their homes, McInnis told ABC News. He said there were seven injuries — a “miracle” considering how badly homes were hit by the storm. Some homes were ripped from their foundations and tossed onto the street. He said that in total there was about a 2-mile stretch of tornado damage in the area.
About 12,550 potential structures were damaged in Arabi and New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward, Villanova University professor Stephen Strafer said, adding that that includes the larger area of where the storm hit, not just the path of the tornado.
The EF, or Enhanced Fujita, Scale is the standard way to measure tornadoes based on wind damage. According to the measurement, an EF-3 tornado is one that reaches wind speeds between 136 and 165 mph and can cause severe damage. An EF-2 encompasses winds of 111 to 135 mph. An EF-4 is anything between 166 and 200 mph and is described as causing devastating damage. Tropical storms, for comparison, reach hurricane status with wind speeds of 74 mph.
The EF Scale debuted in the U.S. on Feb. 1, 2007, and is used to assess a tornado based on wind speeds and damage, taking into account different building structures. A “devastating” designation is subjective, as even EF-1 tornadoes could harm lives and buildings.
The same system passing through Louisiana has not dissipated as the National Weather Service said it’s moving through the Southeast and the Ohio Valley, where heavy rainfall is expected on Wednesday. The NWS, however, reported that “the severe and flash flood threat should wane somewhat as the environment becomes less favorable.”
Other tornadoes generated by the same storm tore up Texas to the extent that Gov. Greg Abbott issued a declaration disaster for 16 counties, which will allow them to receive financial aid and expedite recovery efforts.
Multiple people were reportedly injured and a woman died in Grayson County, an area about an hour north of Dallas.
The city of Round Rock said it is “coordinating volunteer groups and strategically placing them in tornado-impacted areas. Recovery for many will be a long process and there will be many opportunities to help our neighbors.” According to the Associated Press, McInnis said the tornado caused major damage to an area that was also wrecked by Katrina, and again when Category 4 Hurricane Ida blasted through in September 2021.
“I need people not in New Orleans to understand we’re getting hit by tornados with tarps still on roofs all over the place from Ida,” tweeted @mandeh_lorian.
“It’s devastating to see the same part of the country impacted again by a significant weather event,” said Sheldon Yellen, CEO of Belfor Property Restoration, who saw the damage from storms last year.
Yellen told Yahoo News on Wednesday: “After Ida, we had multiple staging areas set up across Louisiana and deployed hundreds of Belfor team members from dozens of offices across the country to help with cleanup and restoration. Following yesterday’s tornadoes, we have teams on the ground from our Baton Rouge office, as well as Texas response teams.”
He said the day after the storm, watch out for hidden dangers like downed wires or damaged property in your home, which should be documented before any other action is taken.