The storm system that swept through southeast Louisiana had largely spared the New Orleans area as of Tuesday evening, playing havoc with nerves and schedules but doing the most damage farther west.
Schools and government offices closed throughout the metro area, and there were sporadic power outages. But the storm did its worst closer to Baton Rouge, spawning a tornado that mangled a Convent trailer park and killed at least two people.
Closer to New Orleans, at least 10 injuries were reported in St. John the Baptist Parish. A tornado touched down in LaPlace about 4:15 p.m., tossing vehicles and tearing roofs off homes. WWL-TV reported that the Indigo Lake subdivision was particularly hard-hit.
“It actually is very bad in certain areas,” Parish President Natalie Robottom said.
Tornadoes also caused some property damage near Louis Armstrong International Airport in Kenner, as well as in Lutcher and Paincourtville.
In Kenner, a tornado touched down in the Oakland subdivision just after 11:30 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.
The funnel cloud was first spotted at 11:21 a.m. near the airport’s tower, Kenner Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Doug Dodt said. The cloud moved to the Oakland area south of Airline Drive, touching down as a tornado just after 11:30. No injuries were reported, although there was some damage on nearby streets, according to Jefferson Parish emergency officials.
Dodt said damage reported by residents in the 500 blocks of Salvadore and Centanni roads at 11:28 a.m. was from straight-line winds. City officials said they had seen no photos of twisted debris characteristic of tornado damage.
The tornado may have been the same cell spotted 15 minutes earlier in St. Charles Parish, where an Ama resident called the parish Emergency Operations Center to report a tornado in the sky. 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.
Just north of Interstate 10, high winds tore off the back wall of New Mount Bethel Baptist Church in the Lincoln Manor neighborhood.
Melvin Robertson, who sits on New Mount Bethel’s board of deacons, said the church in the 1400 block of 31st Street was damaged about 10:30 a.m. Winds also wrecked a fence isolating the building’s air conditioning unit and some grease trap equipment, Robertson said.
Tornado warnings were issued for areas across the metro area throughout the day, and some portions of the area remained under a severe weather warning that was due to end at 10 p.m.
Armstrong International conducted business as usual, though there were 23 delays and three cancellations as of 6 p.m., according to the website FlightAware.com.
New Orleans saw little severe damage. Strong gusts of wind, however, did do some minor damage Tuesday afternoon. A downed utility pole missed striking a home by just a few feet in the 5900 block of St. Roch Avenue in Gentilly.
Down the street, Allison Braxton-Baehr pointed out some damaged panels on the front of her house.
“I just thank God that no one was hurt,” she said. “This is a powerful storm.”
A few streets away, at Filmore Avenue and St. Anthony Street, another pole precariously hovered over a residential structure, city officials said. The New Orleans Fire Department helped residents leave that building while Entergy New Orleans crews worked to stabilize the pole.
In St. Tammany Parish, there were no reports of tornadoes touching down Tuesday, although dramatic video of waterspouts dancing across Lake Pontchartrain near the Mandeville lakefront were widely circulated on social media.
The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway remained open most of the day, although it was closed for about an hour in the late afternoon as a strong cell moved across the lake. Restrictions were in place for much of the day.
Heavy rainfall caused portions of Monroe and Montgomery streets in Old Mandeville to flood, and there were scattered reports of street flooding in other parts of St. Tammany, according to Ronnie Simpson, spokesman for Parish President Pat Brister.
A shed at the Madisonville boat launch was destroyed, he said, and wind felled some trees in Lacombe and the Airport Road area of Slidell. Franco’s Athletic Club on La. 22 on the western side of Mandeville sustained damaged to its fence, sign and a lifeguard shack, according to WWL-TV. Windows were also blown out at several nearby duplexes.
Power outages came and went throughout the day.
As of 6:15 p.m., the greater New Orleans area was seeing widespread outages, with more than 8,500 households in St. John Parish without electricity, according to Entergy Louisiana.
In Jefferson Parish, more than 1,400 households were in the dark. In St. Charles, 146 households were dark.
In Orleans Parish, which is served by Entergy New Orleans, more than 4,560 customers lost power at some point.
In St. Tammany, Cleco Power reported that about 440 households had lost electricity service, and Washington St. Tammany Electric Cooperative reported 185 of its customers out of power in St. Tammany.
The most widespread impact was to people’s routines. The St. Tammany school system announced it was closing schools late Monday, following a flurry of school closures in parishes farther west. New Orleans public and private schools rushed to announce closures Tuesday morning, with some suspending classes as early as 11 a.m. and many others at noon.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans shuttered the city’s Catholic schools at noon. Other private schools closed early, as did colleges, universities and public libraries. Jefferson Parish public schools remained open but suspended after-school care and activities.
Government offices across the metro area closed early in the face of dire forecasts, and many afternoon and evening meetings were canceled.
New Orleans Advocate staff writers ?Chad Calder, Faimon Roberts, Richard Thompson and Jessica Williams contributed to this report.