Tornado rips off roofs, knocks out power in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A tornado tore off roofs, knocked down electricity polls and cut power to thousands in …

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A tornado tore off roofs, destroyed electricity polls and cut power to thousands in New Orleans early Wednesday, but no serious injuries were reported in what one city official called an unexpected ‘dry run’ for the approaching hrricane season.

Wind and driving rain swept through parts of the port city of Louisiana at around 2 a.m., leaving damage in the Carrollton and Broadmoor neighborhoods of upper New Orleans and across the Mississippi River in the Algiers Point area.

The National Weather Service had issued a warning of a possible tornado as the winds hit. Meteorologists confirmed at a press conference this afternoon that they had studied the damage and confirmed that it was caused by a tornado and not straight winds.

The tornado was rated “EF-0” with winds of 85 mph.

As many as 10,000 people in the city were without power at one point, although the number had dropped to less than 2,000 by Wednesday afternoon, as trash removal continued amid the whine of chainsaws clearing felled trees. Officials also reported that numerous traffic lights had gone out due to the storm.

Collin Arnold, the city’s emergency director, in a press conference called the storm “a kind of dry run for what awaits us in a few weeks with hurricane season.” The season starts on June 1.

The town’s press conference was held about a block from where long, twisted pieces of metal roofing and bits of air conditioning lay on the garden below Sarah Smith’s bedroom window. She had watched the debris disappear from a neighbor’s higher roof.

“The storm was hard,” she said. “And then we saw it all flash by.”

A huge oak blocked a nearby street. Large tree limbs and downed electricity polls covered damaged cars in several other places, and utility personnel supported a power pole dangling over the iron fence of a city cemetery.

Gerlie Weinstein watched as she walked her little dog among the gravestones. She said she had slept from the storm’s initial roar, but was awakened by a tornado alarm on her phone. ‘Then there is a lot of wind. But we’re used to that, ”she said. “And then the power went out.”

The New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness activated its emergency operations center to coordinate response efforts, city officials said.

More storms were possible around the deep south later Wednesday, with a marginal risk of severe weather in parts of Georgia and Florida, according to the National Storm Forecast Center.

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Associated Press writer Jeff Martin in Marietta, Georgia contributed to this report.

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