Tornado wreaks havoc on neighboring Arabi, Lower Ninth Ward

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Jude Papillion

A tornado ripped through Arabi, in St. Bernard Parish, leaving this home destroyed.

Rohan Goswami and Jude Papillion

Mere hours after at least one tornado formed and moved across New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward and into neighboring St. Bernard Parish, first responders from across the New Orleans metropolitan area were still triaging, evacuating and moving door-to-door searching for survivors.

Most points of egress and entry into St. Bernard Parish remained closed until late Tuesday night, as officers and first responders moved to assess damage and contain power lines.

From a staging area — a Brother’s parking lot off West Judge Perez Drive — local officials directed masses of firefighters and emergency medical technicians on search patterns and protocol.

Dozens of ambulances lined the streets and curbs awaiting casualties. St. Bernard Parish Sheriff Office vehicles moved cautiously through streets strewn with downed power lines and littered with the debris of what were once homes — insulation, floorboards and shingles.

A family — with a swaddled child in a woman’s arms — picked their way through that debris, headed towards a mass of emergency lights.

Entire homes lay open to the elements. Some, still under construction, appeared to have their siding ripped open.

Cars lay wrapped around telephone wires or trees — presumably propelled by the intensity of the tornado into positions that no human driver could accomplish.

First responders moved through the scene lit only by flashing emergency lights and handheld flashlights. Early Wednesday morning, power remains out for more than 7,000 Entergy customers.

The scenes of destruction and chaos were just miles away from the relative tranquility of Tulane University’s Uptown campus, which had a tornado warning declared “all clear” by 7:39 p.m. on Tuesday evening.

A distinct odor of gas could be detected driving past PBF Chalmette Refinery.

Kim Gritter, public information officer at St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office, indicated that search and rescue missions would continue well into Wednesday.

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