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Archive for Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tornado kills 1 in New Orleans

February 14, 2007

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Hellean Lewis walks away from a home that was destroyed by an early morning tornado in New Orleans. Lewis' neighbor, Stella Chambers, died Tuesday after the twister slammed into her trailer, ripping it and her newly renovated home apart and scattering debris about 200 feet to the Industrial Canal levee.

Hellean Lewis walks away from a home that was destroyed by an early morning tornado in New Orleans. Lewis' neighbor, Stella Chambers, died Tuesday after the twister slammed into her trailer, ripping it and her newly renovated home apart and scattering debris about 200 feet to the Industrial Canal levee.

— Eighteen months after Hurricane Katrina, Stella Chambers' modest red-brick house finally had been repaired, and she was waiting for one last utility hookup to move back in. But the 85-year-old woman never made it.

A tornado tore through her neighborhood in the city's Gentilly neighborhood before daybreak Tuesday, flattening her house, ripping apart the front-yard FEMA trailer in which she was living and killing her.

At least 29 people were injured, including Chambers' daughter, Gail, as the twister heaped more misery on neighborhoods still trying to recover from Katrina. The storm destroyed at least 50 FEMA trailers and dozens of homes, and damaged many others - many of which were in various states of repair.

"We were trying to get my mother back in the house. Now there is nothing to repair," said Mervin Pollard, whose 81-year-old mother's Katrina-flooded home was reduced to a pile of lumber Tuesday. "How do you start over again when you are already trying to do that?"

Firefighters went door to door, once again searching for victims of a storm. They spray-painted bright orange rectangles on the buildings and trailers and, as with the circles searchers used after Hurricane Katrina, they listed the date of the search and whether bodies were found.

"Some of these houses still have the circle on them from the last search," resident Patrick Clementine said. "Now we're doing it again."

Gov. Kathleen Blanco became teary-eyed as she talked to residents of the suburb of Westwego whose homes were destroyed.

"It's incredible. It just looks like pick-up sticks," she said. "People's lives just torn asunder again."

Blanco issued a disaster declaration, authorizing state aid for the area. She said the state would send in National Guard troops for security.

The tornado hopscotched a 10-mile path from the west bank of the Mississippi River to the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, striking some neighborhoods that were hit by Katrina and have been slow to recover.

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