After tornado pounds Arabi, Tulane employee wants to help

Martha Sanchez, News Editor

First responders from the Louisiana State Fire Marshal make their way down a debris-laden street, checking each house, door by door.
First responders from the Louisiana State Fire Marshal made their way down a debris-laden street Tuesday night checking each house, door by door. (Jude Papillion)

As a tornado closed in on her Arabi home Tuesday night, Carolyn Scofield tried to gather her pets. She rushed to her hallway, her second choice of safe space because she could not fit her 75-pound labrador hound dog in her small, windowless bathroom. 

She did not hear the sound of the tornado barreling by because she stayed on the phone with a friend the whole time. 

“I think it was the most scared I’ve ever been,” she said. 

Scofield is manager of marketing and communications for Tulane University’s School of Medicine. She lives just a half mile from the path of a 160 mph, EF3 tornado that pounded through Arabi, Louisiana and New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward Tuesday night, leaving a wake of rubble and devastation and killing one

The winds ripped roofs off of houses. The tornado downed power lines and flipped cars upside down, cutting a 11-and-a-half mile long path of destruction until it finally left the ground at 7:38 p.m. that night

After the tornado passed, Scofield looked outside. It missed her street, but she knew disaster had struck. 

“It was just sirens after sirens after sirens,” she said. 

Scofield is an experienced volunteer — she worked after Hurricanes Harvey, Zeta and Ida, among other natural disasters. But she did not want to get in the way of first responders, so she stayed at home the rest of the night responding to the dozens who called to make sure she was OK. 

“I just kind of sat at my house,” she said, “I was shaking.” 

Her power was out, so Scofield cooked dinner on a camping stove. She could not sleep until early morning because of adrenaline. She felt lucky that everything on her block was fine, she said. But she knew “that not very far away, everything was not fine.” 

Scofield took the next day off of work to help. Her house had power so she ran extension cords outside and set up chairs and water for neighbors to rest and charge their phones. She went to Walmart and picked up snacks to hand out around Arabi elementary. And she tried to save a neighbor’s plants. 

But the destruction was worse than she imagined. 

“I feel like I’ve been to a lot of disasters, but I never feel like I have enough words to describe how bad they look,” Scofield said. She has tarped many roofs after hurricanes, but said “it’s been a rare moment when I’ve gotten to a place or when I’ve been in a place that there’s nothing to tarp.”

And in Arabi, in some places, “there’s nothing to fix,” she said. “For some of the houses there’s nothing to even board up.” 

Scofield returned to work Thursday, but has plans to keep providing aid wherever she can. 

“This weekend,” she said, “I’m going to try to see who I can go out and help.”

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