Severe thunderstorms barreled through the Southeast on Tuesday, dropping multiple tornadoes in southern Louisiana, one of which did major damage to communities in east New Orleans — among the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
The large tornado was filmed by storm chasers and residents as it tracked from west to east across the populous New Orleans region. Multiple tornado warnings were issued as the storm evolved in which the National Weather Service used strong language to convey a tornado had been spotted on the ground.
The National Weather Service confirmed at least three tornadoes touched down.
New Orleans East Hospital confirmed five patients were admitted with storm-related injuries, WGNO reported. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said damage is “substantial” and dozens of people were injured, though most injuries were minor.
There have been no reports yet of fatalities or missing people. Officials are searching houses to make sure people aren’t trapped in debris, according to the Associated Press. Approximately 10,000 homes were without power and there have been multiple reports of gas leaks, the AP said.
The NASA assembly facility in Michoud, La., sustained damage as the tornado passed through and the campus lost power. A Lockheed Martin spokesman told The Washington Post all of their employees are accounted for but couldn’t speak for the NASA employees. The smell of natural gas was reported near the facility.
Storms continued into the afternoon in the area while affected communities in the New Orleans area began to assess the damage. Major damage to homes and businesses was reported on social media via photos and video.
The storms resulted in two minor injuries in Livingston Parish, east of Baton Rouge, the AP reported. No other injuries or fatalities have been reported.
After Tornadoes Hit In And Around New Orleans, Wall Of Storms Moves East
Updated at 4:50 p.m. ET
A wall of dangerous storms is moving across the South, threatening communities in their path with high winds, severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes.
The National Weather Service warned of severe thunderstorms and hail along the Mississippi coast and issued a series of rapidly updated tornado warnings for parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.
The governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, declared a state of emergency after severe storms moved through the southeastern part of the state.
Earlier Tuesday, the National Weather Service confirmed that multiple tornadoes touched down in and around New Orleans. The website for the electricity utility in New Orleans, Etergy, showed that more than 15,000 customers had lost power.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told The Associated Press that dozens of people reportedly suffered minor injuries, and a spokesman for the city's Emergency Medical Services described those injured as "walking wounded."
At 11:33 a.m. CT, the NWS office for New Orleans tweeted, "Dangerous tornado on the ground in New Orleans East. Take Shelter IMMEDIATELY!!!"
Kimberly Chaney told the AP she was trying to record a video of the tornado when her mother pulled her inside their home. "Four of them huddled in a middle bedroom as the twister hit, knocking down part of the roof and blowing out the windows," the news service reported. "[Chaney] says their cars all were totaled, and her niece is worried because her computer was damaged with her homework stuck inside."
"[Chaney] says she told her: 'It's a natural disaster. Your teacher will understand.' "
Images of the area published by the New Orleans Times-Picayune showed funnel clouds, hail and dark skies.
A video taken in one neighborhood showed twisted metal and downed trees, emergency vehicles and power lines crisscrossing debris.
The newspaper reported at least one injury in New Orleans East.
Outside Baton Rouge, local ABC affiliate WBRZ reported that two mobile homes were "completely gone," posting photos to Twitter of twisted metal in a tree and a toothbrush standing upright in the grass.
Homes were damaged in the city of Donaldsonville, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, where photos shared on the official town Twitter account showed a home without a roof, and wood and metal in the road.
Tornado touches down in New Orleans
A powerful tornado touched down Tuesday in New Orleans, causing heavy damage to buildings in the city and surrounding areas, officials said.
The severe weather spanned a wide swath of southeastern Louisiana.
"The storm system brought strong winds and at least six tornadoes, which caused severe damage, including multiple injuries, dozens of damaged homes and businesses, and thousands left without power," Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement.
Edwards declared a state of emergency in the wake of the storms.
Severe thunderstorms were predicted to continue Tuesday from the central Gulf Coast region to the Ohio Valley ahead of a strong cold front, according to the National Weather service.
Very large hail, strong winds and tornadoes will be possible in the lower Mississippi River Valley and central Gulf Coast states through Tuesday evening, according to the weather service.
Multiple emergency crews were responding to reports of damage in New Orleans, said Erin Burns, press secretary to Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu.
There were reports of some heavily damaged homes and businesses in the city's east, but so far no reports of fatalities, Burns said.
More than 17,000 people in Louisiana were without power, according to utility company Entergy's outage map.
NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans was damaged.
Jonathan Simeral, a materials engineer at the facility, said he initially headed to a window after getting a weather warning on his phone, but then "dove into a bathroom" after his colleagues screamed that they could see the tornado approach.
"The lights went out and you could hear stuff falling from the ceiling. Debris flying, you could hear it hitting the windows," he said.
The cluster of thunderstorms will continue to be a threat for the remainder of Tuesday, CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray.
"This is a serious, serious situation," Gray said.