Tuesday, Feb. 7, a massive storm hit the entirety of New Orleans, and a small section of the storm produced a weather phenomenon most Southerners have only seen on their televisions: tornadoes.
That morning, fully-formed tornadoes touched down in New Orleans East and left devastation in their wake.
Immediately following the wake of the storm, the city and state governments declared New Orleans East a disaster site, and the order was approved by the Trump administration Saturday, officially recognizing the disaster on a federal level.
New Orleans East resident Ingrid Hall, who relocated to the parish from the ninth ward after Katrina, said “It’s crazy when you move out of an area to get away from devastation, then it follows you here … it’s heartbreaking.”
“The tornado touched down directly on the other side of the street from our house. Luckily we weren’t home when the tornadoes hit, but we did have damage to all our windows and roof. Everybody around our house has damage.”
“We’re blessed, though, because our house is still here. Some of our neighbors’ houses are gone entirely.”
Hall and many others in the neighborhood had to wait nearly a week before learning President Trump approved the site as a disaster zone, and even by then, FEMA had done very little to ease the suffering.
Hall said, “There’s no food assistance; there’s no water assistance. The government hasn’t stepped in yet. All we have is people and organizations feeding us out of the kindness of their hearts.”
“We’re blessed, in that regard, but we still have no assistance with lodging. Our house has serious damage to it, and we can’t stay here, so we have to pay for a hotel with money we don’t have.”
Patrick Lewis, another New Orleans East resident, said, “Me and my wife were home when the tornadoes hit, we were sitting at the kitchen table. I went to the patio door, and when I looked out, the tornado was right there. It was right on our front lawn!”
“I ran back inside and told my wife we needed to get to safety. I yelled at her [saying] we needed to get in the closet. So we got in, and we prayed and prayed for God to keep us safe. We felt the foundation move and rumble. Everything in the house was shaking”
“We got out the closet, went outside and looked around at the devastation. We were amazed, but we were all safe. God kept us safe.”
Deborah Russell, a resident of New Orleans East since 1997, said she was one of the residents hit hardest by the tornado.
“The tornado touched down right on top of my house Tuesday morning. I knew something was up when I heard a noise like a train whistle far away. I ignored it, since it wasn’t super close, but after a bit, the noise started to get louder and closer.”
“I looked out the window, and the wind was picking up significantly. Within a few minutes, the house was trembling. I had to hold the bathroom door shut. I had to physically press against it.”
“I got in the tub, and all I could hear was things crashing and falling and breaking. I was so scared I didn’t know what to do. In that shower I prayed and I prayed. All I could hear was glass shattering and the wind roaring. I prayed and I prayed, and it was traumatizing.”
Russell’s home lost its roof, and she said the only feasible option is to either rebuild entirely or move.
“The area of damage the tornado left is very narrow. I have neighbors on both sides of me, and they weren’t hit as badly as I was. [My] carport is gone, columns in front of my house are gone. My car is totaled. We lost everything. I thank God I’m still here.”
“The people that put up the tarps on my roof, that wasn’t the government. It was a youth group, Youth Rebuilding New Orleans. I was blessed to have them because I still haven’t heard anything from the city. [The] city didn’t give us tarps.”
“I don’t know if I am going to have to pay for the repairs or the future of this whole situation.”