Tornado Touches Down in New Orleans as Storms Threaten the Deep South

A tornado touched down in New Orleans on Tuesday night, passing through the city and heavily damaging homes, knocking out power and prompting a search for residents who may be trapped, according to local authorities.

“There are houses that are missing,” said James Pohlmann, the sheriff of St. Bernard Parish. “One landed in the middle of the street, in Center Street, and there was somebody trapped in that house.” That person was rescued and in the hospital.

The tornado, which hit both the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish, had cleared the city by about 8:30 p.m. as it headed east. It came as a robust spring storm system that was blamed for at least one death and left a path of destruction in Texas continued to move over portions of the Deep South on Tuesday, bringing unsettled weather.

About 3.2 million people in southern Louisiana, southern Mississippi and the western edge of Alabama were under a moderate risk of severe weather on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.

Up to five inches of rain was predicted in the region through Tuesday night, with higher amounts possible in some areas, meteorologists said. The system rolling through the region could produce tornadoes, hailstones nearly the size of golf balls and damaging winds up of to 70 miles per hour.

By Tuesday, a variety of weather warnings blanketed the Central Plains and Deep South. In Mississippi, several tornado warnings were issued amid sightings of funnel clouds, though there were no immediate reports of significant damage. A flood watch stretched from eastern Texas up through the western edge of Tennessee.

A wind advisory covered nearly all of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as parts of Arkansas and Tennessee.

Forecasters in Louisiana warned residents on Monday night that it was time to prepare for the possibility of tornadoes sweeping the region.

“There is no safe shelter in a mobile home during a tornado,” the Weather Service in New Orleans said on Twitter. “Seek shelter in a provided space within your mobile home community or seek shelter with friends or family who live nearby in a house or apartment. Last resort is to lie low and flat on the ground.”

As the storms moved east, some state offices in Louisiana were closed on Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Twitter. School districts throughout the state also adjusted their schedules, many of them closing for the day or closing early in anticipation of severe weather. Similar school closings were announced in Mississippi.

“Today it will be windy with widespread rain including severe thunderstorms capable of damaging wind gusts, large hail and tornadoes,” the Weather Service in Jackson, Miss., said on Twitter. “Be careful!”

On Tuesday, the University of Alabama announced that it had suspended normal operations from 1 p.m. until 5 a.m. on Wednesday. It warned that there was an increased possibility of “supercell thunderstorms or tornadoes,” as well as heavy rains that could cause flooding.

The system is forecast to be less widespread and less intense by the time it moves over the Eastern United States on Wednesday, meteorologists said.

On Monday, severe weather ripped through Texas, where a 73-year-old woman was killed when a tornado destroyed her home in Sherwood Shores, a lakeside community in Grayson County near the Oklahoma border, the authorities said.

Sarah Somers, the county’s emergency management director, said in an email on Tuesday that 10 other people were injured during the tornado and were being treated at hospitals.

Several tornadoes were reported in Central Texas in the late afternoon on Monday, including in Round Rock, about 20 miles north of Austin where a video that circulated widely on social media showed people scrambling for cover inside a Walmart as a tornado funnel whipped debris in the store’s parking lot.

In Elgin, Texas, a suburb of Austin, a storm chaser captured video footage of a red pickup truck being tossed on its side by a tornado before righting itself and driving away.

In Jacksboro, about 90 miles northwest of Dallas, a tornado caused heavy damage to an elementary school and a high school, causing a building to partly collapse, ripping away roofing and uprooting trees, according to local media reports.

At a news conference on Tuesday in Jack County, which includes Jacksboro, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas recognized emergency crews and school personnel for response during the tornado.

“When you look at the magnitude of the tornado that swept through Jack County and know that there are no fatalities, it is a miracle,” Mr. Abbott said. “However, as has been said, the quick thinking, the decisive action by leaders, whether it be at the school or elsewhere, saved lives.”

Mr. Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 16 counties, including Jack County, where nine people were taken to Faith Community Hospital in Jacksboro with injuries that were not life-threatening, the authorities said on Tuesday.

The tornado that hit Jacksboro was an F-3 in strength, with maximum winds from 140 miles per hour to 150 m.p.h., according to the National Weather Service.

Later on Tuesday, Mr. Abbott visited Crockett, Texas, another hard-hit city in Houston County, about 110 miles north of Houston. At a news conference there, he said that 10 people in the county had been injured during a tornado on Monday, including one person with severe injuries. Thirty buildings were damaged in the area, most of which were homes, Mr. Abbott said.

“We want everybody to get back on their feet as quickly as possible,” he said. “We will help them do that.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, about 43,000 customers across Texas were without electricity, along with about 30,000 in Louisiana and 20,000 in Mississippi, according to PowerOutage.us, a website that aggregates data from utilities across the United States.

Derrick Bryson Taylor and Neil Vigdor contributed reporting.



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