Parts of the New Orleans area were hammered late Wednesday afternoon by a fast-moving storm system that brought golf ball-size hail and heavy winds to Kenner and Metairie and spurred fears that a tornado might form as the system passed over Gentilly and New Orleans East.
The National Weather Service reported no tornadoes, but tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings were in effect as the system moved through the area.
The “hail core” — bright red on the weather radar — moved through Kenner about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, pelting cars, homes and businesses with large clusters of hail.
Nasty Martinez, owner of Sabor Latino on Williams, said he and store employees had heard the storm was coming and stayed inside. He said the worst of it lasted about seven minutes.
“They were big ol’ pieces of ice,” he said. “I think it’s going to mess up a lot of people’s cars.”
Heavy winds downed power lines and trees throughout Kenner and Metairie as the system made its way eastward, leaving street flooding and power outages in its wake.
At 5:15 p.m., more than 5,000 Entergy customers were without power in Jefferson Parish, and about 1,000 were powerless in Orleans shortly thereafter. Crews had knocked those figures down to about 2,000 in Jefferson and 350 in Orleans by 8 p.m.
Kenner’s Office of Emergency Management said most of the damage was in the northern half of the city, and multiple power lines down across Williams Boulevard at one point cut off access to the Treasure Chest Casino.
Water crept up in streets prone to flooding, while the wind downed tree limbs and power lines. Police and other emergency responders worked to keep people away from downed lines throughout Kenner, Metairie and other areas.
Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni urged all residents to closely monitor TV, radio and Kenner’s media resources for information.
“We are expected to receive more rain throughout the week and need to remain vigilant,” Yenni said.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.