NEW ORLEANS – Recovery efforts are underway after a massive, deadly tornado tore through the heart of New Orleans.
Cars flipped like toys as homes were ripped apart or blown off their foundation, resulting from widespread and extensive damage from what the National Weather Service said was at least an EF-3 tornado.
St. Bernard Parish officials have confirmed the death of a 25-year-old man as storm-related, and several other people were taken to area hospitals.
Local emergency officials say dozens of homes were damaged in St. Bernard Parish alone. And while exact numbers won't become available until the initial emergency response is completed, parish officials estimate about half of Arabi suffered damage from the tornado.
Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency following damage from tornadoes in St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes on Tuesday evening. He traveled to the affected areas on Wednesday to conduct a flyover of the impacted area.
"Sadly, one person has died in the storm, and we are praying that there are no more fatalities," Edwards said.
Local and state responders worked through the night to help as many families as they could overnight, and the work will continue into the coming weeks.
"Unfortunately, our people have become all too familiar with rebuilding after tragedy and loss, but it is never easy," Edwards said. "My prayers are with everyone who is hurting because of these tornadoes today."
The response effort started Tuesday night with search and rescue teams and law enforcement personnel deployed to assist local first responders in the area.
The governor’s office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness is currently determining the next steps for response and recovery.
The Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office has deployed more than 100 personnel and search and rescue specialists from fire departments in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and nearby parishes.
The shock has still not worn off for the residents who felt the impact of deadly and destructive Category 4 Hurricane Ida last August, which has become the second-strongest hurricane ever to hit Louisiana as measured by central pressure at landfall, behind only Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Before Tuesday, the most recent tornado to rip through Orleans Parish was an EF-0 on May 12, 2021. Since 1950, they have seen 21 tornadoes, with eight ranked EF-2 or higher on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
The strongest on record was an EF-3 tornado in February 2017 with peak winds of 150 mph, according to the National Weather Service. The storm destroyed 638 homes.
"One of the things that we know, in the city of New Orleans, we are resilient people," Mayor LaToya Cantrell said during a news conference Wednesday. "We know that we’re also on the front lines of climate change. And this is just another example of that."
Cantrell’s administration has responded to over 15 emergency declarations in less than four years.
"It’s been the response of the public, truly, that’s gotten us through them," Cantrell said.
The city said they would remain engaged on the ground with the public and provide them with the needed support in the weeks and months to come.
"We are moving through this, and we will get through it together," Cantrell said.