Nearly 150 structures seriously damaged in New Orleans area tornado that killed man

Residents in a New Orleans area community began picking up the pieces Wednesday, a day after a strong tornado crashed through Arabi and killed one person, damaged and destroyed homes and wrecked cars.

Survey teams found damage consistent with an EF-3 tornado and a path around 11 miles long, the National Weather Service said. It said the rating is preliminary.

Killed was Connor Lambert, 25, of Arabi, the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office said.

The damage was concentrated in Arabi, a community of around 4,500 just east of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, officials said.

The storm swept across the New Orleans area around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Video captured by NBC affiliate WDSU showed the dark and large funnel cloud on the ground.

“We threw ourselves in the laundry room and just kind of all huddled together and prayed that we would survive,” Arabi resident Stacey Mancuso-Labit said Wednesday.

Nearly 150 homes and other structures had “significant damage” that will require a rebuild or major repair, Louisiana State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning said Wednesday.

Eight people were hurt seriously enough to seek treatment at hospitals, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said after flying over the area and visiting on the ground.

“The swath of damage is just tremendous,” Edwards said.

Preliminarily, the track of the storm extends from Gretna in Jefferson Parish, through Arabi, and then to New Orleans East in Orleans Parish, the weather service said.

An EF-3 tornado has winds between 158 and 206 mph. The weather service expects a final assessment to be done Thursday.

A family holds hands as they pray outside their destroyed home in the aftermath of a tornado in Arabi, Louisiana, on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
A family holds hands as they pray outside their destroyed home in the aftermath of a tornado in Arabi, Louisiana, on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. Adrees Latif / Reuters

Monica Hazen’s Arabi house was destroyed. The walls and roof were ripped off her home.

“I called my mama, and I said, ‘My house is gone,’” Hazen told WDSU. “And she said, ‘so is mine.’”

Arabi, like the Lower 9th Ward and other parts of New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana, was hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a storm that has been blamed for over 1,800 deaths.

Mancuso-Labit lost her home in Katrina and rebuilt. It was damaged again in storms since, including Hurricane Ida last year.

“It’s all part of the territory. We love it here, we love St, Bernard Parish, we’re not going anywhere, we’ve been here our whole lives,” she said. “I mean, it’s home.”

There was also an EF-1 tornado with maximum winds of 90 mph that struck in Lacombe, which is in St. Tammany Parish on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, at around the same time Tuesday night, the weather service said.

That tornado had a path around 12 miles long and 100 yards wide. Homes were damaged and dozens of trees were snapped, the weather service said.

Edwards declared a state of emergency for St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes. The declaration allows for aid.

The severe weather in Louisiana and other parts of the South Tuesday came one day after at least 24 tornadoes touched down in Texas. One person was killed.

Around 1,000 homes were damaged or completely destroyed just in Williamson County, which is north of Austin, County Judge Bill Gravell said at a news conference Tuesday.

Other communities also suffered damage, including Jacksboro northwest of Fort Worth, which was hit by an EF-3 tornado that had winds up to 150 mph.

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