Tornado strikes New Orleans metro; damage surveys underway
About an hour after a violent tornado damaged a hospital and homes in New Iberia, Louisiana, the severe weather threat moved into the New Orleans metro area triggering at least one confirmed tornado.
The severe weather was produced by a large coast-to-coast storm system that created blizzard conditions in the Plains and tornadoes in the South from Texas to Alabama.
On Wednesday afternoon, there were 15 active Tornado Warnings at one time throughout the Southeast, issued by the National Weather Service.
Soon after, a tornado was spotted on the ground moving through New Orleans, according to a local fire department.
More than 40,000 energy customers had power knocked out during the severe storms, according to the region's main utility provider.
FOX Weather correspondent Mitti Hicks was in New Orleans when Tornado Warnings began shifting closer. The NWS issued a Tornado Warning for Orleans and Jefferson Parishes just before 4 p.m. CT
Conditions began deteriorating rapidly around Lake Pontchartrain, where Hicks was located. Lightning flashed over the water, and the wind started whipping trees.
"Things have just changed drastically in 20 minutes. You can’t even see about 30 feet ahead of me," Hicks said.
Immediately after the storm, Jefferson Parish Councilman Scott Walker started surveying damage.
Extensive damage in Marrero, Louisiana, following severe weather on Dec. 14, 2022. (Councilman Scott Walker / FOX Weather)
"It was on the West Bank, where the tornado sort of formed and then crossed the river into the city of New Orleans and caused some damage in the city of Gretna, old Gretna, a few streets around there. There was a Winn-Dixie off the West Bank Expressway, which is sort of the interstate that leads you to the Crescent City connection into the city - the roof collapsed there and there's some significant damage to that store," said Walker.
Cindy DeLucca Hernandez was in Arabi, Louisiana, when she spotted the supercell.
"It was 4:07 p.m. and I was on my way home from work, trying to beat the rain home," said Hernandez. "We were at the light and saw the debris and got hit by it, so I put the car in reverse, and I waited. I was in shock."
As of Wednesday evening, authorities had not reported any fatalities associated with the storm that impacted the metro; however, an earlier round of storms is thought to have lead to the deaths of at least three people across the state.
New Orleans is no stranger to destructive tornadoes
In March, two tornadoes tore through a part of New Orleans, killing a 25-year-old man and leaving a wide path of destruction.
The largest of the two, rated at least an EF-3 by the NWS, was seen as a large, multi-vortex tornado tracking 11 miles into the Arabi and Lower Ninth Ward.
Areas that saw damage were Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Tammany and Jefferson parishes. Some of the same communities saw damage during the most recent event.
The town of Arabi was also devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Some spots were 10 to 20 feet underwater when the levees broke.
WHAT IS A MULTI-VORTEX TORNADO
At least 36 tornadoes have been reported since Tuesday from Oklahoma and Texas eastward to Louisiana and Mississippi, according to the National Weather Service.