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Tornadoes rip through Louisiana, leaving 3 dead and thousands without power

Some neighborhoods hit by the violent twisters are still cleaning up from devastation caused by other recent storms.

NEW ORLEANS (CN) — Tornadoes that formed across Louisiana Tuesday and Wednesday left at least three people dead, cut power to thousands of residences statewide and leveled neighborhoods.

The destruction came after the same system wreaked havoc in parts of Oklahoma, east Texas and northwest Louisiana earlier this week.

In Killona, a small neighborhood in St. Charles Parish roughly 33 miles west of New Orleans, a woman was killed, eight others were injured and at least 20 families were displaced after a twister ripped through the neighborhood just after 2:20 p.m. Wednesday. The area is still repairing damage caused by Hurricane Ida in 2021.

During a press conference Wednesday evening, St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne called the tornado “horrific” and said Killona was “probably in the eyewall” for Hurricane Ida.

“They didn’t need this again,” Champagne said.

He said the woman who died during the storm, whose name he declined to release, was found outside her home.

Search and rescue teams went door-to-door in the affected area, working around downed powerlines, blocked roads and gas leaks left in the wake of the violent storm.

Late Tuesday, a mother and her young son were killed after a twister hit their rural north Louisiana community in Caddo Parish near Shreveport.

The Caddo Parish Coroner’s Office said the body of 8-year-old Nikolus Little was found around 11 p.m. Tuesday in a wooded area a half mile from their home after tornadoes tore through the area.

The body of his mother, 30-year-old Yoshiko A. Smith, was found hours later, around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, under storm debris near their destroyed house, according to Sheriff Steve Prator, who said the boy’s father reported them missing.

“We couldn’t even find the house that he was describing with the address. Everything was gone,” Prator told Shreveport TV station KSLA.

About 90 miles east in Farmville, Louisiana, multiple tornadoes ripped through a neighborhood with mobile homes and an apartment complex late Tuesday. About 20 people were hospitalized, some with critical injuries, according to a report the Union Parish Sheriff’s Office gave to Monroe TV station KNOE.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards issued a state of emergency declaration Wednesday morning, citing six possible tornado touchdowns across the state.

“I am heartbroken to learn of the mother and child who were killed in Southwest Caddo Parish due to one of numerous reported tornadoes,” the Democratic governor said in a news release.

A house and car are seen damaged after a confirmed tornado on Friscoville Avenue in Arabi, La., on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

A tornado watch across the New Orleans area was called at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, projected to last until around 4:30 p.m. Not long after, footage popped up on social media showing funnel clouds and flying debris in various neighborhoods around The Big Easy.

Thousands of residents were without power as the storm, consisting of loud, crashing thunder, torrents of rain, and vivid lightning, moved past. The storm brought down hundreds of power lines as it traveled across the New Orleans area, according to official estimates.

A neighborhood just beyond the Ninth Ward was hit by a twister for the second time in nine months around 4 p.m. Wednesday after funnel clouds cut across the Mississippi River and landed in the Friscoville Avenue neighborhood, which was devastated by tornadoes last March

Wednesday’s damage in Friscoville was minor compared to the spring storm, according to early reports. The March tornadoes left two people in the neighborhood dead and damaged around 150 homes, half of which were destroyed completely by official estimates. The latest twister appeared to have followed a similar path.

St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis said Wednesday’s damage in Arabi – an historic area roughly 8 miles from downtown New Orleans – appeared to be mostly missing roof shingles, though a few roofs may have blown off, he said. He added that emergency responders had rescued around 10 people, but so far no casualties were reported in Arabi.

Throughout the day Wednesday, an emergency broadcast system in New Orleans sent texts in English and Spanish instructing residents what to do.

“If tornado warning is issued, prepare to shelter in an interior room on lowest level away from windows,” a 2:29 p.m. text from NOLAReady said.

City Hall, courthouses and other government buildings in New Orleans closed at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Area schools remained open. After an official tornado warning was issued at 3:45 p.m., text alerts continued.

“If in a car during tornado, try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. Lie in an area lower than level of the roadway. Cover your head w/ your arms,” the alert system instructed. 

“I guess we’re getting used to this, that’s a sad thing,” McInnis told the New Orleans Advocate. “I guess this is tornado alley now.”

Two schools in Arabi remained closed Thursday due to power outages, and at least two schools in Jefferson Parish were closed because of storm damage.

Thousands of residents were still without power statewide. 

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