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1 dead and homes destroyed after tornado hit New Orleans area last night


At least two tornadoes swept through the greater New Orleans area last night, causing significant damage, multiple injuries and one reported death so far. Gulf States Newsroom reporter Shalina Chatlani is in Araby, La., a suburb just across the city line from New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. That area experienced some of the most severe damage. Shalina, thanks for joining us.


SHAPIRO: First, describe where you are and what you've seen.

CHATLANI: Well, I'm in a part of Araby where it's residential, but there are also a lot of businesses here - barber shops, local food stores. And the first thing I noticed walking around was that there were entire structures that were completely leveled to the ground. I'm seeing trees on tops of houses, downed power lines that thankfully aren't live, windows blown out, debris and broken glass lining the street. I'm also still seeing a lot of people walking around assessing the damage. I spoke to the pastor of one church, the True Vine Church, which I'm actually across from right now. It serves a predominantly Latino population. And unfortunately, the church was completely demolished. The pastor is David Pagan.

DAVID PAGAN: We have, like, about 65, 75 people. And everybody call me day and night. And the only thing I can say, you know, we just pray, wait what happened. And if we have to rebuild, we have to rebuild.

CHATLANI: There were a lot of folks just sitting outside waiting for insurance adjusters to stop by, waiting for volunteers to come and help them pick up debris, or, you know, they were at work themselves sweeping away the damage.

SHAPIRO: What are local officials saying about how extensive the damage is?

CHATLANI: The governor of Louisiana spoke this afternoon. That's Governor John Bel Edwards. And he declared the situation a state of emergency so he could activate the National Guard. He said the damage to homes and businesses is severe and devastating in some places, but it's also relatively concentrated in those areas. The death toll is holding at one person, and eight people were hospitalized. So, you know, the loss of life right now is at a low point, but obviously there could be more damage in the cleanup and recovery phase.

When it comes to power, right now, around 2,500 customers are without their power. But the governor doesn't expect that to last too long. In fact, I'm seeing right now that there's a lot of utility workers out here that are working on those downed power lines. And at this point, several hundred structures have been assessed as having damage, but that's probably a low estimate at this point.

SHAPIRO: Are there any estimates yet of what it will take to recover and cleanup from this? How long? How much money?

CHATLANI: Yeah, well, when it comes to how long it might take people to individually recover, it really depends on those insurance claims, you know, and whether people find the money to fix their homes. One person, Anette Dugan, who was here on the street, told me she just fixed her roof four weeks ago. It was damaged in Hurricane Ida, which was a destructive Category 4 storm that hit Louisiana just late last August. And with this tornado, part of the roof got torn off again because a horse trailer hit her house.

ANETTE DUGAN: I'm kind of, like, still in shock right now. I'm just kind of in a daze because we didn't sleep. We slept in the house last night because we don't want to leave it yet.

CHATLANI: You know, and in the meantime, a lot of people, as they're waiting for those adjusters to come out and sort out their plans, there's also a lot of volunteers that are around here handing out food and water to people. And so there's a lot of community activism happening.

SHAPIRO: Gulf States Newsroom reporter Shalina Chatlani, thank you.

CHATLANI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Shalina Chatlani