By Vincenzo Ciccone
NEW ORLEANS, La – A string of at least seven tornadoes, packing 111 to 135 mph winds, cut a path of destruction through the New Orleans East neighborhood at approximately 11:30 a.m. CST Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. Thus far the precarious and unpredictable recovery efforts following the storm remind area residents of the Hurricane Katrina debacle.
The tornadoes were reportedly nearly a mile wide and traveled a spectacular distance across Southeast Louisiana, through New Orleans’s Ninth Ward, and ended as far north as Arkansas.
There are reports of major property damage and minor injuries to residents of the Ninth Ward, the same area of New Orleans hit particularly hard by Katrina some 12 years ago. Even though Tuesday’s storm does not compare to the devastation of Katrina, residents report that recovery efforts from officials have shown little improvement.
Wesley Stone, 24, lives in New Orleans East and was on the ground to witness the devastation of the storm.
“I was on the same street as the tornado,” said Stone. “It sounded like the whistle of a train. It was extremely loud. First the lights went out. After that it happened in a flash.”
Stone described major damage to the homes in his neighborhood. “The windows in my father’s house were all blown out, and the roof of the house was just torn off. The neighborhood doesn’t have a back of their house at all.”
The storm destroyed homes and vehicles and caused the loss of power. It spun around parked cars as though they were toys, leaving them strewn in the middle of streets; it snapped off utility poles, leaving power lines dangling; it ripped open houses, leaving piles of wooden boards, tin, tar paper, and other building materials strewn across wide areas of neighborhoods; and it sucked possessions from homes after blasting out windows.
“This is exactly like the way we were neglected after Katrina,” said Stone. “This is probably even worse, because we were supposed to have learned our lesson from Katrina. I haven’t gotten a single call or visit from anyone in authority or from the government while the stuff in our house literally is scattered outside on the street.”
Stone says he expects his father’s homeowner’s insurance to reimburse the family for the damages, but made no mention of FEMA.
“Even the stress of seeing your home destroyed and your life uprooted, and nobody even cares if you make it or when you make it is tough,” added Stone.
Not all residents were affected by the storm. Nevertheless, there is agreement that recovery efforts should be improved.
Jodie Laurent, 21, who resides in New Orleans East, was not at home during the storm. “I was at work downtown when the tornado hit, and all my family was okay, but I knew a lot of people who had some damage. The tornado hit two streets away from her house, so she will stay with me because she doesn’t have power for the rest of the week. Katrina was worse. I’m not sure how long it took to get paid from FEMA during Katrina. However, I don’t think FEMA is paying the tornado victims at all. They just have to have homeowner’s insurance.”
FEMA announced on Feb. 12, five days after the storm, its decision to open a Disaster Recovery Center scheduled to begin daily operations at the East New Orleans Public Library located at 5641 Read Blvd., New Orleans, La, 70127. The center is open daily, including weekends, and offers assistance to disaster survivors, according to federal officials.
These still photos of New Orleans East document the devastation left in the wake of last Tuesday’s powerful storm.
Information on the FEMA Recovery Center in New Orleans East:
Related Article on Settling Insurance Claims After a Disaster:
Related Article on Coping with the Effects of Severe Weather on Behavioral Health:
Related Article on Tornado Safety: