Wednesday, 08 February 2017 05:54

At least 28 injuries reported in New Orleans area after devastating tornadoes

At least seven tornadoes hit southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday (Feb. 7), resulting in at least 28 injuries reported in the New Orleans area, as well as two injuries reported on the North Shore, the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said Tuesday night. Another nine injuries have been reported in the Baton Rouge area.

Late Tuesday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office said 31 injuries had been reported in New Orleans, with six of those injuries considered moderate to severe.

As of 11 p.m., no fatalities had been reported as a result of the storms.

About 250 properties were severely damaged over the 2-to-2.5-mile tornado path after a tornado touched down in New Orleans East, prompting Mayor Mitch Landrieu to declare a state of emergency for the City of New Orleans.

Landrieu's office said emergency crews are working around the clock to respond to calls for help from residents.Seven parishes experienced damage during several rounds of storms lasting most of the day, prompting Gov. John Bel Edwards to declare a state of emergency, according to the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP). Those parishes include Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Livingston, St. James and Ascension.

Late Tuesday, Landrieu's office said Entergy crews are working around the clock and expect to have all power restored in three to five days.

Entergy estimated about 9,400 Orleans Parish residents remained without power Tuesday night. Wednesday, 150 restoration workers from surrounding areas will assist in recovery efforts.

Public-safety teams have completed one full search-and-rescue sweep of the impacted area and have begun a second, Landrieu's office said.

Throughout the evening and overnight, officers will continue a "highly visible" multiagency patrol with help from the Louisiana Army National Guard, which has committed 150 troops to cover 24-hour patrols, according to Landrieu's office. An additional 36 deputies are also being provided by outside agencies through a Louisiana Sheriff's Association emergency task force, the GOHSEP said.

The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans has dispatched several crews to New Orleans East to assess tornado-related damages to homes and businesses. Tuesday night, 17 sewer pump stations were being transitioned to generator power so could be up and running late Tuesday. 

This power outage had no effect on the Carrollton Water Plant, which supplies the city's tap water, according to Landrieu's office, adding that the city's water is safe to drink.

FEMA preliminary damage-assessment teams are scheduled to hit the ground Wednesday to determine levels of federal aid to be availableThe GOHSEP's Crisis Action Team has also been activated to address requests for help from parishes and other state agencies due to the storms.

Tuesday night, the GOHSEP said the office has answered requests from Orleans Parish for items needed at a local shelter, including cots, blankets, food and water, according to a news release from the GOHSEP. 

The city has opened a temporary shelter at Joe W. Brown Recreation Center, 5601 Read Blvd. Food, water, cots and blankets are available to those using the shelter overnight.

The New Orleans Health Department, with support from the Red Cross, Catholic Charities and the New Orleans Fire Department, is providing basic medical care and prescription assistance, Landrieu's office said.

In addition, the Red Cross is partnering with other groups to be onsite at Joe Brown Park to take assessments for short-term and long-term housing needs.

Starting Wednesday, food, water and cleaning supplies will be available for pick up, the Mayor's Office said.School bus lines along Chef Menteur Highway have been re-routed to avoid tornado-hit areas. At least seven schools in New Orleans East will be closed Wednesday, though not all of those were damaged.

At least one school in New Orleans East was damaged in the tornado, but the school reported no injuries.

For up-to-date road status information, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development offers:

511 Traveler Information, which gives information regarding road closures. Visit the website at www.511la.org or call 511. Out-of-state travelers can access the system by calling 1-888-ROAD-511 (1-888-762-3511).

MyDOTD, which provides automatic and up-to-date information on local projects, lane and road closures, and other DOTD activity. Sign up for MyDOTD at www.dotd.la.gov.

In a news release, GOHSEP Director James Waskom urged people to stay out of tornado-damaged areas to allow emergency workers and utility crews to do their work. Extra traffic in impacted areas could delay recovery work, he said.

In New Orleans, calls regarding downed trees, street lights and street signs should be directed to 311, according to Landrieu's office.

Waskom also warned of the possibility that the destructive weather may not be over.

"We may continue to see more severe weather systems like today's storms due to our unusually warm winter," Waskom said.

According to Landrieu's office, the Joe Brown Park shelter can not directly accept food, clothing, other donations or volunteers at this time. 

Those looking to support ongoing recovery efforts are asked to contact The Greater New Orleans Foundation, which has activated Helping Our Neighbors: Tornado Relief. Donations can be made online at the foundation's website.

The Mayor's Office also recommends helping via United Way of Southeast Louisiana, which is accepting monetary donations and seeking volunteers online

New Orleans residents are encouraged to sign up for email and text alerts by visiting Ready.nola.gov, which delivers emergency alerts from city officials.