Storms hammer N.O. area

A powerful line of thunderstorms marched through the metro area on Wednesday, producing two small tornadoes on the northwest edge of Kenner and in Metairie and overwhelming drainage pumps by dumping a couple of inches of rain in a short amount of time.

The morning storm downed trees, cut power to an estimated 35,000 Entergy customers and produced street flooding across much of the area, but the worst damage appeared to be limited to one stretch of West Loyola Drive in Kenner.

A 50-yard-wide EF1 tornado damaged at least a half-dozen homes between the 3600 and 4100 blocks of West Loyola Drive, according to Bob Wagner, a National Weather Service meteorologist. An EF1 tornado includes wind speeds between 86 and 110 mph, though the rating is based on the amount of damage produced. The tornado that touched down in Kenner at about 11:48 a.m. had maximum winds of 90 mph, Wagner said.

The tornado touched down for about a half-mile before it dissipated, Wagner said.

The affected homes had roof damage and blown-out windows, according to Kenner Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Natalie Newton.

Sgt. Brian McGregor, a Kenner Police Department spokesman, said there were no reports of any injuries associated with the storm.

An EF-0 tornado that began at Veterans Boulevard and Transcontinental Drive in Metairie traveled about two miles before it lifted, Wagner said. The twister had maximum 75 mph winds and was 75 yards wide, he said.

Entergy customers in Orleans and Jefferson parishes were without power for several hours during and after the downpour.

Philip Allison, an Entergy spokesman, said an estimated 23,000 customers in Jefferson Parish were without power, while another 12,000 were in the dark in Orleans Parishes during the peak of the outages that the storm caused.

Crews could only begin to assess damage and begin restoration once the wind and rain ended, Allison said.

By about 4 p.m., roughly 10,000 customers were without power between Orleans and Jefferson parishes, Allison said. He estimated that power would be restored to all customers by about 7 p.m. but noted that it could take longer if crews found problems during their restoration efforts.

The storm moved through the metro area by early afternoon, and the weather service reported anywhere from 2.5 inches to 3.5 inches of rain fell on the area.

Weather reports call for a drier day Thursday, with mostly cloudy skies and highs in the mid-70s, according to the weather service.

John McCusker

contributed to this report.