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Saturday December 4th, 2021 11:34PM

Storms bring down trees and knock out power in New Orleans

By The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A tornado ripped off roofs, toppled trees, knocked utility polls askew and cut off power to thousands in New Orleans early Wednesday in what one city official called an unexpected “dry run” for the upcoming hurricane season.

Wind and driving rain roared through sections of the city around 2 a.m. and officials said much of the damage was in the Carrollton and Broadmoor neighborhoods and across the Mississippi River in the Algiers Point area. There were no reports of serious injuries.

The National Weather Service had issued a warning of a possible tornado as the winds hit. Meteorologists examined the damage for much of the day before announcing at an afternoon news conference that the damage was done by a tornado and not straight line winds. The tornado was rated an “EF-0" with winds of 85 mph (137 kph).

As many as 10,000 people in the city were without power at one point. Outages had been reduced to less than 2,000 by Wednesday afternoon but the work of recovery was ongoing. Officials reported numerous inoperative traffic lights in town, debris removal was under way and the news conference in the Carrollton neighborhood was interrupted by a roaring truck's nearby backup signal.

City emergency preparedness director Collin Arnold called the storm “pretty much a dry run for what we are going to face in a few weeks with hurricane season.” The season starts June 1.

The city news conference was held about a block from where long, twisted sections of silver colored metal roofing and pieces of air conditioning equipment littered the yard beneath Sarah Smith’s bedroom window. She had watched them scatter down from a neighbor’s neighbor’s higher roof.

“The storm was loud,” she said as chain saws roared nearby. “And then we saw it all flashing by."

A huge oak tree blocked one nearby street. Large tree limbs and downed utility polls lay across damaged automobiles in several other spots and utility crews shored up a power pole leaning precariously over the iron fence of a city cemetery.

Gerlie Weinstein watched as she walked her small dog among the tombstones. She said she had slept through the initial roar of the storm but was awakened by a tornado alarm on her phone. “Then, 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 in Louisiana and south Mississippi on Wednesday. There was also a marginal risk of severe weather in southeastern Georgia and the eastern Florida peninsula, according to the national Storm Prediction Center.

___

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

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