Tornadoes touch down, wreak havoc in southern Louisiana
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The tornadoes that struck southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday injured about 20 people, destroyed homes and businesses, flipped cars and trucks, and left about 10,000 customers without power, but no deaths were reported, the governor said.
Gov. John Bel Edwards took an aerial tour and made a disaster declaration before meeting with officials in New Orleans. The worst damage was in the same 9th Ward that was so heavily flooded in Hurricane Katrina.
Edwards, a Democrat, said he was heartbroken to see some of the same people suffering again, and promised that the state will provide the affected citizens with the resources they need as quickly as possible.
He said seven parishes were hit by tornadoes in an afternoon of tumultuous weather across southeastern Louisiana.
Hatchet-wielding firefighters walked up and down the debris-strewn Chef Menteur Highway after the storm, looking for anyone missing or trapped. Their primary search came up empty, and a secondary search was planned to make sure and to better assess the damage.
Edwards said he called in the Louisiana National Guard to police and secure the area, and urged people to stay away.
“This is not a time to sight-see,” he said.
The storm ripped apart homes, toppled a gas station canopy, snapped tall power poles and flipped a food truck upside-down. It left shards of metal hanging from trees, and trapped a truck driver as power lines wrapped around his cab.
The wall of severe weather also delivered heavy rain and hail to Mississippi and Alabama.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the White House was monitoring the weather’s impact, and that President Donald Trump would be reaching out to local and state officials.
Yoshekia Brown lost everything to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Now she’s lost everything again: Three-quarters of her home in eastern New Orleans collapsed.
“Sister, your house is gone,” her brother told her as she drove home.
She didn’t believe it until she saw it herself.
“I lived in between two blighted properties. One of those would have been gone before my house,” she said. “It’s just gone. Like the movie Twister.”
Luckily her 2-year-old son and three dogs have survived, and her home was insured. She said she’s not sure what to do next, but said “something good has to come from this.”
Outside the heavily damaged Royal Palms Motel, Malcolm Ballard, 65, was left homeless by the tornado. His room was ransacked; the furniture and carpet soaked after the door and windows blew open.
Kevin Ballard, 56, came to check on his older brother, but his own injuries turned out to be worse, with cuts and bruises on his head and neck, after an auto repair shop he was in collapsed around him.
“I was standing in front of the building at first and I seen something black, twisting,” Kevin Ballard said. “Tires and everything fell on the back of my neck and head.”
The Baton Rouge area also got hit. Ascension Parish Sheriff’s spokeswoman Allison Hudson says three people suffered minor injuries and several homes and some other buildings were damaged in the historic part of Donaldsonville, about 20 miles southwest of the capital.
In Killian, just east of Baton Rouge, the mayor said several houses were destroyed and several others damaged, but an elderly couple suffered the only injuries he knew of: One a broken leg, the other a broken arm.
“How you manage to get blown completely across the street with cinderblocks flying and no worse than a couple broken limbs — apparently the good Lord was looking after them,” said Mayor Craig McGehee.
Associated Press contributors include Jeff Martin in Atlanta and Janet McConnaughey and Chevel Johnson in New Orleans.