‘My house is gone’: Residents describe harrowing experience as tornadoes swept through New Orleans area, killing 1

Mar 24, 2022, 6:37 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 3:17 pm
An overturned vehicle is seen on March 23 amid destroyed homes in Arabi, Louisiana. (Bryan Tarnowsk...
An overturned vehicle is seen on March 23 amid destroyed homes in Arabi, Louisiana. (Bryan Tarnowski/Bloomberg/Getty Images)
(Bryan Tarnowski/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

(CNN) — After a tornado roared through Arabi, Louisiana, Tuesday with 136 mph winds, the walls and roof of Angel Hahn’s house were gone and as the wind calmed, she grabbed her phone.

“I called my mama, and I said, ‘My house is gone,'” she told CNN affiliate WDSU.

“She said, ‘So is mine.'”

“I’m still in shock myself,” her mother, Monica Hazen, told the station while standing outside her nearby home. “I’m just trying to absorb it all.”

The mother and daughter are just two of the storm-battered residents in the New Orleans area still assessing the damage and reflecting on their scramble for safety as two tornadoes tore through the region, leaving one person dead and untold misery.

The powerful tornado caused significant damage in Arabi, St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis said. Some homes were “picked up off their foundations and are lying in the street,” he said.

Eight people were hospitalized for injuries related to the storm, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday during a news conference.

Girl survives tornado that dropped house onto street

The National Weather Service gave the tornado a preliminary EF-3 rating on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

Another Arabi resident, Damarys Olea, said her family — including her husband and two children ages 6 and 8 — used a mattress to cover themselves as they sought shelter in a bathroom of their home as the tornado swept through. The windows of her home were blown out and downed powerlines fell on the family’s cars and yard — though the house itself was mostly spared.

Olea said as the tornado closed in, she felt pressure in her ears.

“We felt the pressure, and it was scary. It was like being in a movie,” Olea said. “The wind, the pressure, the noise, the house shaking … it just felt like a train was going by.”

Another tornado touched down Tuesday evening in the Lacombe area of St. Tammany Parish, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, the National Weather Service said. No injuries were immediately reported in Lacombe, but the tornado did snap dozens of trees, destroyed a shed and left minor roof damage, the weather service said.

That tornado was on the ground for 12.2 miles and had a maximum width of 100 yards, with peak winds preliminarily estimated at 90 mph, making it an EF-1 tornado, according to the weather service.

In New Orleans, about 50 structures saw some type of damage, but none that was significant, and no injuries were reported in the city, officials said.


System bringing rain to the East Coast


The storm system that slammed the New Orleans area Tuesday also spawned more than 30 tornadoes in Texas Monday and still holds the potential for severe conditions Thursday as it trudges toward the East Coast, though the most dangerous threats have likely passed.

“A few strong/severe storms will be possible through midday over parts of the Mid-Atlantic region, extending southward along the Atlantic Coast, and during the afternoon over parts of northern/eastern Florida”, the weather service’s Storm Prediction Center warned.

More than 17 million people are at marginal risk (a level 1 of 5) for severe weather stretching from Tampa, Florida, through southern Delaware, according to an alert issued by the storm center.

Widespread rainfall totals in the region Thursday are forecast to range between 1 and 2 inches, with some isolated pockets at risk of seeing between 2 and 4 inches.

Central Florida is under threat of excessive rainfall Thursday “due to round after round of storms producing heavy rainfall,” CNN Meteorologist Robert Shackelford said.

The system already brought record rainfall across parts of the South.

In Louisiana, Shreveport broke its 1871 daily record of 1.29 inches of rain when it saw 3.81 inches.

Multiple daily rainfall records were also broken in Alabama: Birmingham broke its 1908 rainfall record of 1.95 inches when it collected 2.32 inches; Tuscaloosa saw 3.56 inches, blowing past its previous record of 1.1 inches in 2012; Monticello received 2.87 inches, surpassing the record of 2.72 inches in 1968.

In Jackson, Mississippi, 1.69 inches of rain fell, breaking the 1953 record of 1.63 inches.

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‘My house is gone’: Residents describe harrowing experience as tornadoes swept through New Orleans area, killing 1