ARABI, La. — A tornado that menaced New Orleans flipped a schoolbus, ripped off rooftops and deposited a house with a family inside onto the middle of Prosperity Street. Two people were killed as the storm front blew across the South.
Multiple people were injured. The dead included a woman north of Dallas, Texas, and a person in St. Bernard Parish, next to New Orleans. Authorities didn’t immediately describe how they were killed.
The city of New Orleans escaped significant damage, Mayor LaToya Cantrell tweeted late Tuesday, but tornadoes touched down in Arabi, just east of the city, and further east in Lacombe, across Lake Pontchartrain, the National Weather Service said.
Television stations broadcast live images as the storm damaged an area about 2 miles long and a quarter-mile in Saint Bernard Parish.
Louisiana activated 300 National Guard personnel to clear roads and provide security and engineering support. They joined firefighters and others searching multiple structures to make sure no one had been left behind, said John Rahaim Jr., the parish’s homeland security director.
“They’re searching everything, going door to door,” Rahaim said.
Arabi, just east of the city’s Lower 9th Ward, was wrecked by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and hit hard again when Hurricane Ida swept through last year.
Stacey Mancuso’s family just completed repairs to their home in Arabi after Ida ripped off the roof and caused extensive water damage. As Tuesday’s tornado tore through their street, she huddled in the laundry room with her husband; two children, ages 16 and 11; and dogs as part of their new roof blew away.
“We’re alive. That’s what I can say at this point. We still have four walls and part of a roof. I consider myself lucky,” said Mancuso. Still, the twister was the third time they’ve had major weather damage since Katrina.
Entergy reported that about 3,700 of its remained without electricity on Wednesday. A strong smell of natural gas was in the air and downed power lines forced emergency workers to walk slowly through the wreckage.
Michelle Malasovich was texting relatives from her home in Arabi when “all of a sudden the lights started flickering.” Her husband, out on the porch, saw the twister coming their way.
“It just kept getting louder and louder,” Malasovich said. After it passed, they came out to survey the damage — some columns were blown off their porch and the windows of her Jeep were blown out. Others fared worse: “Our neighbor’s house is in the middle of the street right now.”
A family of three was in that home when it went airborne, and the couple emerged from the wreckage seeking help to rescue their daughter, still inside on a breathing machine, neighbors and authorities said.
“We had one rescue — a home that was actually picked up and came down in the middle of the street. A young girl was on a ventilator, her father was looking for firefighters to come help, come help,” St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis said. “And they were already in there taking care of the young lady and she’s doing fine.”
Some houses were destroyed while pieces of debris hung from electrical wires and trees. An aluminum fishing boat was bent into the shape of a C with its motor across the street.
“I wasn’t mentally prepared to see what I was seeing,” said Amy Sims, who jumped into her car when the tornado warning sounded and drove to the Arabi Heights area to check on her cousin Amanda Hotard and her family.
She said ambulance crews and emergency medics, some crying, were dodging live wires as they went door-to-door through shattered homes. Her cousin’s home and family were OK, but houses all around them were flattened, she said Wednesday.
“A bomb looked like it had gone off,” she said.
Other tornadoes spawned by the same storm system caused so much damage in Texas that the governor declared a disaster in 16 counties, and shredded buildings in Alabama, where torrential rainfall was recorded.
The vicious weather hit Texas on Monday, with several tornadoes reported along the Interstate 35 corridor. In Elgin, broken trees lined the rural roads and pieces of metal uprooted by strong winds hung from the branches as residents stepped gingerly through the mess to clean remnants of broken ceilings, torn down walls and damaged cars.
J.D. Harkins, 59, said he saw two tornadoes pass by his Elgin home.
“There used to be a barn there,” Harkins said, pointing to an empty plot on his uncle’s property covered with scattered debris.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said 10 people were injured by storms in the Crockett area, while more than a dozen were reportedly hurt elsewhere. The Grayson County Emergency Management Office said a 73-year-old woman was killed in the community of Sherwood Shores, about 60 miles (95 kilometers) north of Dallas, but provided no details.
As the storm front moved eastward, an apparent twister shredded a metal building and shattered windows east of Mobile Bay in Baldwin County, Alabama. The weather service reported more than 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain fell in the central Alabama city of Sylacauga overnight, and the roofs of several homes were damaged in Toxey, Alabama, where tornado warnings were issued.
The wild weather waned as it moved into South Carolina early Wednesday, but the weather service warned that isolated tornadoes remained possible in southern Georgia.
Associated Press journalists Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Kimberly Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama; Ken Miller in Oklahoma City; Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas; Terry Wallace in Dallas; Janet McConnaughy in New Orleans and Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas contributed to this report.