NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) -Crews were assessing the damage on Wednesday on the east side of New Orleans where a powerful tornado killed at least one person and injured eight others as it left a two-mile path of destroyed homes, uprooted power lines and overturned vehicles.
A dark funnel cloud touched down at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (0030 GMT Wednesday), flattening buildings and flipping over vehicles in the Arabi area of St. Bernard Parish.
A spokesperson for the parish, just east of downtown New Orleans, said first responders found a 26-year-old man dead near his home. Eight other people were taken to a hospital with minor injuries, parish spokesperson John Lane said.
“Everybody has been accounted for that we know of at this point,” he said, adding that search and rescue teams had finished most of their work.
National Weather Service meteorologists surveying the damage said on Wednesday the tornado was at least an EF3 on the five-point Enhanced Fujita Scale, packing winds of 136 to 165 mph (219 to 266 kph).
About 2,300 customers were without power as of late afternoon Wednesday, according to poweroutage.us. Officials expected power restoration to progress quickly given favorable weather conditions and the amount of electrical crews and volunteers assisting with recovery.
Much of southern Louisiana is still recovering from Hurricane Ida, a fierce Category 4 storm last August that devastated rural communities south of New Orleans and killed more than 100 people in several U.S. states and the Caribbean.
New Orleans, a city with a majority-Black population, is still traumatized by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, one of the most powerful storms in U.S. history, which killed at least 1,800 people.
Officials are gathering information and communicating with federal agencies to determine what support is available to help affected communities, Congressman Troy Carter told a press gaggle.
“This is one of those situations where, unfortunately, we’ve gotten too good at this because we’ve had too much practice,” Carter said. “The beauty is the resiliency of the people.”
Governor John Bel Edwards said at the press conference that he received calls from the White House and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), adding that damage to public infrastructure was likely not widespread enough to qualify for public assistance.
“There was a significant amount of damage, as you can see, but at this point we don’t know whether we’re going to meet the thresholds necessary to qualify for federal assistance,” he said.
The Small Business Administration plans to make its loan program available soon, Edwards said.
The tornado largely spared Orleans Parish and the City of New Orleans to the west, where no injuries or significant damage were reported, Mayor Latoya Cantrell said in a news briefing.
ONCE HOMES, NOW RUBBLE
Residents spent the day picking through debris and climbing rubble piles where their houses and businesses once stood while utility crews worked to repair downed power lines along city streets.
“It sounded like a train and I just said, ‘No, no, no,'” a woman told television station WDSU. “I really thought I was going to die.”
Some 2,300 homes and businesses in St. Bernard Parish and 700 customers in Orleans Parish were without power on Wednesday afternoon, according to Entergy, the local power company.
The system moved to the east and was producing strong thunderstorms along Florida’s Panhandle on Wednesday. It could potentially bring damaging winds, tornados and hail to the region throughout the day, the National Weather Service said.
(Reporting by Adrees Latif and Brendan O’Brien;Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Jonathan Oatis, Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)