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  • The San Juan Daily Star

Tornado sweeps through New Orleans as death toll from storms reaches 3

A tornado was caught on camera as it tore through New Iberia, La.

By Remy Tumin, McKenna Oxenden and Judson Jones

Tornadoes continued to sweep across the South on Wednesday, killing one person west of New Orleans and leaving scattered damage near the Crescent City, one day after a series of ferocious storms left two others in Louisiana dead and dozens injured.

Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana declared a state of emergency, and parts of Alabama, Florida and Georgia were under tornado watches late Wednesday.

Tornadoes were confirmed in two spots in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday night, although there were no reports of damage as they went through forests, the National Weather Service said. Eric Bunker, a forecaster with the weather service, said that storms were expected to continue moving east throughout the Panhandle and into parts of Alabama overnight and into Thursday morning.

The death Wednesday occurred about 2:30 p.m. when a tornado in Killona, Louisiana, in St. Charles Parish, about 35 miles west of New Orleans, killed a woman, the parish said in a Facebook post. Seven other people were injured.

A separate tornado was confirmed in New Orleans around 4:30 p.m., said Lauren Nash, a meteorologist for the weather service in Louisiana.

That tornado caused “significant” damage, Nash said, specifically to an adjacent community, Arabi, which also was hit by a tornado in March that left one person dead and numerous houses damaged. There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, although nearly 21,000 people were without power Wednesday night, according to tracking website

For most of metro New Orleans, the storm Wednesday blew into the area about 4 p.m. as hard rain and intense wind, but a brief squall. Most area schools and many businesses had sent people home early in the day in anticipation of bad weather.

The damage appeared largely confined to the west bank of the Mississippi, in the historic Algiers neighborhood. For most of the region, the storm left rainwater in the streets and tree branches down.

Residents expressed a sense of exasperation to have been threatened by tornadoes in December after having put another hurricane season behind them.

Kaare Johnson of New Orleans has lived in Louisiana for more than 50 years and said that tornadoes had only recently started to affect the area. Many have followed very similar paths, and the same neighborhoods have been devastated multiple times.

“Hurricane season is in the rearview mirror,” he said, “and then we get this hurricanelike damage in parts of the city.”

Lauren Edward Denny of Arabi has spent most of the year rebuilding his house after it was destroyed by the tornado in March, he said. After the tornado Wednesday, he drove home not knowing if it had been hit again. Thankfully, he said, his home was spared, but he could see the damage about 200 yards away from his porch.

“Had the house suffered damage today, I think that was it for me,” Denny said. “I just don’t think I would have stayed. Hurricanes we can see, we can prepare for, but these things, we don’t have a way to prepare for them.”

The two earlier tornado-related deaths occurred when a home was destroyed Tuesday in Keithville, in northwestern Louisiana, according to a statement from the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office. The body of a woman was found early Wednesday. Her young son was also killed.

The police in New Iberia, Louisiana, said in a recorded message on Facebook that at least two tornadoes had touched down in the area Wednesday with “significant damage” to the residential subdivision of Southport Boulevard and a “significant amount of damage” to Iberia Medical Center, a hospital.

Sgt. Daesha Hughes said police believed all residents had been safely evacuated; there was one known injury but no fatalities, she said.

Across Texas and Oklahoma, more than two dozen people were injured in the storms Tuesday, including at least seven people who were hospitalized.

The storms were part of a larger weather system that has brought significant, widespread hazards across more than a dozen states in the central United States. Parts of the Plains and Upper Midwest saw heavy snow, sleet and ice, and blizzard conditions affected multiple states.

On Tuesday, at least 20 people were injured, some critically, as a tornado tore through Union Parish, Louisiana, about 100 miles east of Shreveport, local officials said. The storm leveled part of a large apartment complex and several mobile homes.

In Decatur, Texas, a third tornado, which the weather service described as “large and extremely dangerous,” injured two people Tuesday. There were multiple reports of damage to homes and businesses.

Also on Tuesday morning, a fourth tornado struck Wayne, Oklahoma, and traveled for at least 3 miles with winds reaching 120 mph to 125 mph, according to preliminary information from the weather service.

Multiple homes and barns were damaged, and power poles and trees were downed, according to the McClain County Sheriff’s Office, which said there were no reports of injuries or deaths.

In Texas, five people were hospitalized after injuries from the storm, although none of their injuries were life-threatening, according to a Facebook post from the police in Grapevine. Damage from the storm caused some businesses to close Tuesday and forced some elementary schools in the area to close early.

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