A storm system that caused at least one reported death and widespread damage in Texas and Oklahoma on Monday shifted east and brought severe thunderstorms to the South on Tuesday — including a tornado that impacted parts of New Orleans previously damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
A large tornado touched down Tuesday evening in New Orleans, Louisiana, the National Weather Service said. Within 20 minutes, the tornado and storm had already moved east out of the city, although more tornadoes in the region were possible.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said there were no reports of casualties or significant damage to the Orleans Parish, but at least 8,000 customers had lost power in the storm.
Arabi, Louisiana, located east of New Orleans along the Mississippi River, suffered “significant” damage, Accuweather said, with the New Orleans Fire Department requesting a “major EMS response” following the tornado amid reports of injuries and residents trapped.
The Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal sent staff to Arabi and other affected areas to conduct search and rescue operations.
Parts of the St. Bernard Parish, southeast of New Orleans where Arabi is located, were heavily damaged by Katrina in 2005.
Reggie Ford was nearby when the tornado struck. He drove away from the area, only to return once it passed to offer help to anyone who needed it. So far, he said, the streets are eerily quiet, only filled with fresh devastation from the twister.
“I see downed power lines. A church is completely destroyed. Three businesses are completely destroyed. There are eight blocks of houses missing their roofs,” the New Orleans resident said. The video he posted on Instagram shows debris cluttered streets and shredded buildings. A battered car lies on its roof.
The President of the New Orleans City Council said power was out in 9th Ward and New Orleans East and that damage from the storm was still being assessed.
The sheriff of St. Bernard Parish, James Pohlmann, told the New York Times that “there are houses that are missing.” At least one person was trapped in a house, he said — they were rescued and are in the hospital, the Times reported.
Meanwhile to the west of the city, the Jefferson Parish Department of Fire Services reported no major structural damage or injuries.
Louisiana’s governor, John Bel Edwards, said state agencies are helping to assess the storm’s impacts.
“My prayers are with you in Southeast Louisiana tonight. Please be safe,” he tweeted.
At least 50 million people were under threat of severe storms Tuesday and Wednesday, the Storm Prediction Center said earlier in the day.
The weather was expected to affect more than a dozen states from the southern Plains to the southeastern coast, including “violent and life-threatening thunderstorms” and tornadoes like those that ripped through Texas and parts of Oklahoma on Monday, according to AccuWeather.
High winds uprooted trees in Ridgeland, Mississippi, as a possible tornado passed the city Tuesday afternoon, but there were no immediate reports of any injuries or serious damage to buildings.
Forecasters issued multiple tornado warnings for the state, and alerts spread into Alabama as the line of storms moved eastward. More than 90,000 homes and businesses were left without power from Texas to Mississippi.
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Wednesday, the risk of thunderstorms will shift farther east, bringing the potential for tornadoes to areas from northern Florida to eastern Virginia, AccuWeather forecasters said. Weakened storms could reach the Atlanta area by early Wednesday morning.
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The spate of tornadoes began in Texas on Monday afternoon, causing catastrophic damage to homes, businesses and power lines.
More than 48,000 Texas households were without power Tuesday morning, according to poweroutage.us. Several Houston area schools opened late Tuesday as thousands of residents faced power outages and a flash flood warning.
One person died after a tornado whipped through Sherwood Shores, Texas, injuring several people, the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed to local media.
Farther south, three people were severely injured in Houston County after two mobile homes were destroyed, local media reported. In Elgin, a suburb of Austin, three people were injured, including two who were rescued Monday night after they were trapped in a collapsed structure, police said.
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Four people were rescued Tuesday after they were trapped under flattened buildings in the town of Bowie about 70 miles northwest of Fort Worth, Fox 4 News reported. No injuries were reported, according to the news station.
“I thought I was going to die,” Michael Talamantez told the Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network, after a tornado destroyed his house in Round Rock. Neighbors scrambled to cover their damaged roofs with tarps before more rain moved in.
A storm ripped the wall and roof off parts of Jacksboro High School and left debris scattered in the city about 60 miles northwest of Fort Worth.
Sixty to 80 homes, as well as Jacksboro’s high school and elementary school were damaged, WFAA-TV reported. Minor injuries were reported, but all students and staff members were safe, officials said.
Jacksboro High School Principal Starla Sanders told WFAA the damage was hard to process.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” she said. “It’s hard to see. I’ve lived here for 15 years. I love this place.”
The storms caused damage across much of Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday night at a news conference.
“We know there are many people whose lives have been completely disrupted and people who’ve lost their homes,” Abbott said.
Contributing: Roberto Villalpando, Claire Osborn and Tony Plohetski, Austin American-Statesman; Celina Tebor, USA TODAY; The Associated Press