NEW ORLEANS - A series of tornadoes cut across south Louisiana leaving devastation in its path, including in rarely-hit parts of New Orleans.
The National Weather Service determined an EF-2 tornado touched down in New Orleans East with winds 111 to 135 miles per hour.
There were reports of about a half dozen moderate to severe injuries in New Orleans East, where a tornado apparently hit the Sherwood Forest neighborhood, knocking out power to tens of thousands, devastating homes and automobiles. Mayor Mitch Landrieu estimated that 250 homes were badly damaged.
Governor John Bel Edwards declared a State of Emergency in Ascension, Livingston, Orleans, St. James, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa Parish. He said that at least six tornadoes touched down across the area.
"I am heartbroken to once again see Louisiana families suffering in the wake of devastating tornadoes today," said Gov. Edwards. "We are working tirelessly to ensure that every citizen affected by this storm receives the resources they need as quickly as possible."
A video by Sam Girault, captured the massive tornado.
There was also damage reported at the NASA facility in Michoud.
"Please don't come to East New Orleans, it is shut down," said New Orleans Police Supt. Michael Harrison.
Entergy said power was out to about 9,300 buildings and that it could be 3-5 days before it would be restored. They also said there have found 54 gas leaks.
Several New Orleans East schools suffered damage, including Schaumburg Elementary, which was near the strike center, and Einstein middle, Einstein High, Einstein Village D'Lest and Einstein Sherwood Forest. There were no reports of injuries at the schools, but the Einstein schools said they would be closed Wednesday as damage assessments are made.
The threat of the storms escalated quickly from a low chance of rain early in the week to a slight chance of severe weather forecast Monday to an enhanced risk of severe weather. No one was quite prepared for the multiple reports of tornadoes touching down.
The National Weather Service will have to verify that the damage, did in fact, come from tornadoes. To many of those who suffered damage, the naming won't really matter.
Video and photos showed the top halves of homes ripped off, power lines down and gaping holes in other homes.
One man recounted being in a tent in a little camp area in New Orleans East when the twister struck.
"The dumpster came up and hit me," he said. "I ended up in a tree. I blacked out and woke up in a tree."
Tornados were also reported in Killian, Madisonville, Jefferson Parish and on the west bank.
Viewers sent in photos and videos showing homes with holes in them, and one viewer, Sam Girault, caught an image of a massive tornado in New Orleans East.
The I-10 exits at Downman Road and Chef Highway were closed as officials tried to keep traffic out of the badly-damaged New Orleans East.
"We are searching, we are rescuing," said Harrison. "Please don't come out here."
The tornado seemed to initially touch down at the intersection of Chef Menteur Highway and Wilson and then criss-crossed the road as far as Dwyer.
"There's substantial damage," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
"The funnel came straight over, threw a dumpster over a guy in a tent, it turned and went right back out," said a man who was on a bus when the twister struck, just behind where his bus was located. "I was on a bus, a transformer blew up and it looked like lightning. It devastated nearby camps. There's 15 or 20 smashed up like a ball."
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