The Latest: Tornado damages New Orleans NASA facility

AP News
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Posted: Feb 07, 2017 7:56 PM
The Latest: Tornado damages New Orleans NASA facility

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Latest on severe weather in the Deep South (all times local):

6:30 p.m.

An official at NASA's Michoud facility in New Orleans says it suffered some damage during Tuesday's tornado but the deep-space equipment being built there does not appear to be damaged.

Steve Doering was there when the wind started picking up and says it sounded like a freight train coming down.

He says a 43-acre building where they build rockets suffered significant damage on one end. A number of areas in the facility have lost parts of the roof or walls.

He says the hardware and tooling used in the Orion and Space Launch System were not damaged. But they'll have to do a "significant effort" to cover everything up and make sure any subsequent bad weather doesn't affect it while the roof and walls are repaired.

Michoud supports several projects that are part of NASA's next generation of space exploration including the Space Launch System — a heavy-lift rocket — and the Orion spacecraft.

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Two Mississippi counties are reporting wind damage, but no injuries, from suspected tornadoes Tuesday.

Latrice Maxie, a National Weather Service meteorologist, says one storm hit an area of Scott County north of Forest about 4 p.m. Maxie says a house was reported damaged, while WLBT-TV reports a nearby flea market was also damaged.

G.B. Bufkin of the Jasper County Emergency Management Agency says another suspected twister hit a rural area west of Rose Hill about 5:30 p.m. Bufkin says a mobile home suffered minor damage and trees were downed. The Weather Service says radar identified a debris ball from the Jasper County storm, a strong indicator of a tornado.

Other areas of Mississippi saw heavy rain and hail from a storm system that spawned multiple tornadoes in Louisiana.

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4:45 p.m.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says at least seven parishes were hit by tornadoes Tuesday: Livingston, Tangipahoa, Orleans, Ascension, Jefferson, St. James and St. Tammany.

Edwards took an aerial tour before meeting New Orleans officials. He says the path of destruction is wide and varied. In eastern New Orleans, he says "it kind of bounced back and forth" across the busy Chef Menteur Highway.

The governor called in the Louisiana National Guard to police and secure the area, and says "This is not a time to sight-see."

Edwards says at least 20 injuries were reported, a handful of them serious, and about 10,000 customers were without power late Tuesday.

A primary search of the disaster area found no one found trapped or injured, but a secondary search was planned to make sure and better assess the damage.

Officials urged the public to steer clear, warning of large shards of metal hanging from trees and partially toppled power poles posing a hazard.

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3:10 p.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency for Louisiana after a severe storm moved across the state's southeast corner, including the parishes of Ascension, Livingston, Orleans, St. James, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa.

Edwards says he's heartbroken to see Louisiana families suffering again. Much of the worst damage is in eastern New Orleans, part of the 9th Ward that was so heavily flooded by Hurricane Katrina.

He says the state is "working tirelessly to ensure that every citizen affected by this storm receives the resources they need as quickly as possible."

Edwards did an aerial tour of the damage and planned to join Mayor Mitch Landrieu and other city officials for a news conference.

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1:50 p.m.

The Chaney family of East New Orleans survived the tornado, but just barely.

Kimberly Chaney was trying to record it when her mother pulled her inside, just in time. Four of them huddled in a middle bedroom as the twister hit, knocking down part of the roof and blowing out the windows.

She says their cars all were totaled, and her niece is worried because her computer was damaged with her homework stuck inside.

She says she told her: "It's a natural disaster. Your teacher will understand."

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1:30 p.m.

Yoshekia Brown lost everything to Hurricane Katrina. Now she's lost everything again, to a tornado.

Three-quarters of her home in East New Orleans is collapsed. She says her living room and front bedroom are gone. Luckily her 2-year-old son and three dogs have survived.

She says her home was insured, but she's not sure what to do next.

And despite being struck twice by disaster, she's telling herself that 'something good has to come from this.'

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1:20 p.m.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu reports substantial damage in eastern New Orleans after an apparent tornado touched down in the area.

He says there are initial reports of dozens of minor injuries and two more serious injuries. A spokesman for the Emergency Medical Service described most of those injured Tuesday as "walking wounded," with minor cuts and scrapes.

City officials say about 10,000 homes are without power and there are reports of gas leaks in the area.

Police Chief Michael Harrison says they've closed Interstate 10 eastbound from Downman to Interstate 510 and westbound from I-510 to the Downman exit. That covers most exits that would go into the affected areas. He urged people to stay off the roads and out of the affected areas.

Harrison says patrols are doing house-by-house searches in the neighborhoods to make sure no one's trapped by falling debris or other damage.

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1:15 p.m.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer says the White House is monitoring the severe weather going through Louisiana. He says President Donald Trump is aware of the situation and is going to be reaching out to local and state officials throughout the day.

Spicer says Trump also concurred with the FEMA administrator's recommendation to approve Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant's request to add public assistance to the previously issued major disaster declaration for his state.

Spicer says that in accordance with Bryant's request, public assistance will be added for three counties; Forrest, Lamar and Perry.

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1 p.m.

Parts of eastern New Orleans are looking like a disaster area following a line of severe weather that just blew through the city.

The storm flipped over cars, tore roofs off homes, ripped through a gas station canopy, broke tall power poles off their foundations, flipped a food truck upside-down and left a couch resting improbably on a pile of debris in the middle of a road.

One driver was trapped in his truck by power lines that wrapped around the cab.

As the storm blew over New Orleans, the sun could only be seen on the faraway horizon, below dark grey thunderheads that seemed to turn the day into night.

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12:45 p.m.

Eastern New Orleans resident James Thomas says his whole neighborhood shows storm damage, but his house escaped a tornado with a near miss.

He says, "It's bad. I've never seen it this bad." He says "As far as I can see, treetops are off, power lines down."

Thomas says he saw the twister coming, grabbed his motorcycle helmet and ran into his bathroom.

He says the room went pitch-black, he heard hail on the window, and came outside afterward to see a damage trail or about 20 to 40 feet from his house.

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12:10 p.m.

Officials say at least seven homes have been damaged in Livingston Parish, Louisiana.

Deputy Emergency Management Director Brandi Janes says two of the houses were completely destroyed.

Janes said she knows of two injuries in the parish, both minor. She didn't immediately have any information on whether the homes that were destroyed were occupied when the storm struck.

She says they are working to get trees out of roadways and with the Red Cross to get help to damaged areas.

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12:06 p.m.

Mike Saia, who works at a marina on the Tchefuncte (te-FUNK-ta) River near Lake Pontchartrain, evacuated his office during one of numerous tornado warnings.

Saia watched the storm through a surveillance camera that feeds an app on his iPhone. He said it passed right over the marina but he saw no sign of any funnels or any damage to the marina. He did say there is debris from trees littering the roadways in the area.

Not far from the marina, a possible tornado was reported in the town of Madisonville, according to reports from the National Weather Service.

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12:00 p.m.

The National Weather Service says it has confirmed three tornadoes that have touched down in southern Louisiana.

Danielle Manning, a meteorologist with the weather service, says one touched down in the eastern part of New Orleans, another touched down near the town of Donaldsonville and another in the town of Killian.

She said they have heard reports of injuries but nothing that has been confirmed yet.

Local media showed images of some severely damaged buildings in eastern New Orleans with downed power lines strewn across the road.

The tornadoes are part of a wall of bad weather moving across the Deep South.

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9:06 a.m.

Tornado watches cover large parts of Louisiana and Mississippi as a line of severe storms moves across the region.

In Louisiana, the watches covered the metro areas of New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

In Mississippi, a tornado watch covered the southern half of the state and included the Jackson, Hattiesburg and Biloxi areas.

The National Weather Service reports that storm spotters reported a funnel cloud near Baker, Louisiana, around 9 a.m. There were no immediate reports of any damage from that storm.