In Jefferson Parish, Causeway sees 120 mph winds; brick wall torn off church _lowres

ADVOCATE STAFF BY SOPHIA GERMER -- The severe weather moving through Kenner on Tuesday tore off the back wall of the New Mount Bethel Baptist Church in the Lincoln Manor neighborhood.

Last updated: 10:09 p.m. Tuesday

During a 20-minute closure of the Causeway bridge about 5 p.m. Tuesday, gusts of up to 120 mph were registered at the southbound span’s drawbridge, and sustained winds were at 60 mph, bridge manager Carlton Dufrechou said. One of the traffic gates at the drawbridge was apparently blown overboard, and the other was ripped off from its hinges, Dufrechou said.

“Both will be repaired (Wednesday) morning,” Dufrechou said.

Church destoryed

The severe weather moving through Kenner on Tuesday tore off the back wall of the New Mount Bethel Baptist Church in the Lincoln Manor neighborhood.

The destruction of the building’s rear brick facade was one of the more dramatic examples of how much power is being packed by the winds of the weather system affecting southeastern Louisiana.

Melvin Robertson, who sits on New Mount Bethel’s board of deacons, said it was about 10:30 a.m. when the church in the 1400 block of 31st Street was damaged. Aside from the back wall, strong winds also wrecked a fence isolating the building’s air conditioning unit as well as some grease trap equipment, Robertson said.

Robertson said the church planned on continuing its normally-scheduled activities after cleaning up the debris and covering up the back wall. Church leaders were hopeful that there were no other major storm-related issues affecting the building.

Kenner’s New Mount Bethel counts on a 200-member congregation, Robertson said. Most of them live in Kenner, Metairie or LaPlace, and none were at the church when it was damaged.

The church is well north of the Kenner spot where National Weather Service and Jefferson Parish officials said a tornado touched down about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, causing damage in the Oakland subdivision.

Airport dodges bullet

A tornado touched down in a field near Oakland subdivision just after 11:30 a.m. and while there were no injuries reported, there were several reports of wind damage from residents on nearby streets, according to the National Weather Service and Jefferson Parish Emergency officials.

Kenner emergency preparedness coordinator Doug Dodt said a funnel cloud was spotted by city workers and the airport tower near the airport at 11:21 a.m., though the cloud moved to the Oakland area south of Airline Drive before touching down as a tornado.

Dodt said it appears that the damage reported by residents in the 500 blocks of Salvadore Lane and Centanni Road at 11:28 was from straight-line wind and that the city has seen no photographs of the kind of twisted debris that comes from tornado damage.

This is footage of the funnel cloud that was trying to make touchdown near airport in Kenner Louisiana

Posted by Kenny Soape on Tuesday, February 23, 2016

That may have been the same cell spotted 15 minutes earlier in St. Charles, when an Ama resident called into the parish Emergency Operations Center and reported a tornado in the sky at 11:15 a.m. Ama is on the south bank of the Mississippi just west of Kenner.

Emergency Coordinator Brandon Touchard, who reported the call to the National Weather Service, said there was no confirmation of it touching down, however.

Weather service officials will be out to damage sites to examine the damage and make a determination in the next day or so.

A large tree was also reported down in the 700 block of Pollock Road and Entergy officials have been notified, Kenner said.

Acting Mayor Michael Sigur has ordered the activation of the Kenner Emergency Action Team and the Kenner Help Line – (504) 468-HELP also has been activated for residents to report any damage related to the weather.

Power outages can be reported by calling Entergy at 1-800-9OUTAGE.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.