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Deadly tornado causes damage across New Orleans Metro area

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A tornado touched down in New Orleans last night, causing widespread destruction and at least one death. Aubri Juhasz reports from our member station WWNO.

AUBRI JUHASZ, BYLINE: The tornado caused the greatest damage in St. Bernard Parish, right across the line from New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. Roofs in the historic Arabi area were sheared off and utility poles toppled, plunging the area into complete darkness. Officials said the tornado touched down and traveled the length of the neighborhood from river to levee. At least several homes collapsed. Kina Bullock surveyed the damage to her restaurant.

KINA BULLOCK: It blew out the front door. There's some concrete damage on the inside, lots of glass on the inside, stuff blown around. But, you know, everybody's OK. That's the important thing.

JUHASZ: Nearby, a group of men screwed sheets of plywood over damaged door frames.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRILL)

JUHASZ: Across the street, what had been an antique store and a church was reduced to rubble. Power lines hung dangerously in the street above pools of water slick with oil. Flashlights dotted every street as people emerged from their homes. Among them, Emmett Dupas.

EMMETT DUPAS: It's just absolute devastation. I was born in Arabi and lived here during Katrina, and it was just an absolute mess. And this is kind of a lot of what I saw during Katrina. But thank goodness most of my neighbors, the people I've lived across the street from for years - everybody's safe.

JUHASZ: Arabi was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina more than a decade ago. And while Dupas says he's certain his community will come back strong, the uncertainty of each new disaster is still unnerving.

DUPAS: You know, the lawnmower bag's still in the backyard on the ground, but the AC unit's flipped over. You know, the plastic table, like, six feet away is not even removed. It's just some of the crazy stuff that's gone on. So it's just, you know, Mother Nature, right?

JUHASZ: A more thorough assessment of the tornado's impact is expected this morning after rescue workers finish searching the debris.

For NPR News, I'm Aubri Juhasz in New Orleans.

(SOUNDBITE OF LIBRARY TAPES' "WENNGREN: FEATHERS (SOLO PIANO VERSION)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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