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Tornado in New Orleans East: The aftermath

Several residents are displaced, and thousands are without power

The tornado that hit New Orleans East impacted approximately 250 homes, according to the Office of the Mayor
Photos by Eric Craig, Curbed NOLA

Hardly seven days into February, New Orleans experienced a devastating tornado.

What happened on Tuesday?

On Tuesday, February 7, at approximately 11:20 a.m., a tornado hit and ravaged 2.5 miles of Chef Menteur Highway, between Interstate-10 and Interstate-510.

After the natural disaster, Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared New Orleans in a state of emergency. Approximately 250 homes were damaged, and over 9,400 residents were without power in the Orleans parish after the tornado hit. Power is planned to be restored in New Orleans East in the next 3 to 5 days.

As of Tuesday evening, 31 injuries were reported after the tornado. Six of those injuries were ranked moderate to severe. There were no fatalities following the incident.

Around 3:15 p.m today, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared Louisiana in a state of emergency, stating at least six tornadoes touched down in 11 parishes between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Edwards sent the Guard to New Orleans East, supplying 150 troops to patrol the damaged area for at least 24 hours.

The Joe W. Brown Recreation Center, located on 5601 Read Boulevard, will be utilized as a temporary shelter for residents. The shelter is equipped with food, water and blankets, but temporary housing is not guaranteed.

The aftermath

Tornado rips through New Orleans East, aftermath near Chef Menteur

Posted by Curbed New Orleans on Tuesday, February 7, 2017

After the tornado, Chef Menteur Highway, and nearby streets were lined with fallen trees, broken telephone poles, displaced power lines, and various debris. A few hours earlier, no one expected a tornado to actually hit New Orleans.

“I saw the tornado come through. I ran inside to grab my mom. I got in the closet, and maybe three-four minutes and that was it. It was that fast,” said Denzel Jenkins, a resident on Prentiss Street. “We came back outside and this is what the disaster turned into,”

Jenkins said that he lost most of the roof to his home, his bedroom and his garage. His car parked outside was severely damaged.

“We were in here to experience it and it was not a fun thing. The house was shaking, we were in the closet,” said April Jenkins, the mother of Denzel.

“This is the first time I have ever experienced this over 45 years; I have never experienced anything like this here. We’ve had hurricane but we have never had a tornado. This is the first time for this,” April added.

The Jenkins family said that once they boarded up their home, they would live with relatives for the mean time.

“We will have to do that until we get something up and running. We have no lights, no gas, no nothing,” April said. “Hopefully we have enough security to protect the things in our home.”

Some New Orleans residents rushed to the East to help relatives survey damage and board homes.

“Debris started flying everywhere. You could see the damage, the home was severely damaged along with the homes in the surrounding areas,” said Monique Cook, whose mother has lived on Prentiss Street for nearly 17 years.

The Prentiss Street resident lost two bedrooms, most of her kitchen, and much of the roof to her home. The house was roughly 40 steps from Chef Menteur Highway.

“I’m hoping for the best, that it will be very timely. But I think that this will be a long road ahead with rebuilding.”

While over 250 homes were damaged in New Orleans East during the Tornado, much of the devastation was contained close to Chef Menteur Highway. Many residents were fortunate to have minimal damages.

“The damage to my neighbors are very extensive. The damage to me is very minor,” said Bernard Merricks.

Bernard Merricks was grateful that no lives were claimed during the tornado.

Merricks, who has lived in New Orleans East for five years, said that he is 199 steps from Chef Menteur Highway. While his home has little damage, he is still without electricity and gas.

“In my lifetime I’ve been through Betsy, Rita and Katrina. Betsy and Katrina don’t top this,” Merricks said.

“When they came outside, people saw a lot of destruction. Fortunately we didn’t lose a life. That’s the blessed think about that: We didn’t lose a life,” he added.

How to help

The Joe W. Brown temporary shelter is not directly accepting food, clothing or volunteers. Individuals interested in donating funds and items, or volunteering, should contact The Greater New Orleans Foundation, or the United Way of Southeast Louisiana.

Residents affected by Tuesday’s tornado are urged to sign up for alerts and messages from READY.NOLA.GOV.