Blown to Smitherenes
The title of this post describes parts of Carrollton, (my neighborhood), Gentilly, and Westwego, a suburb on the West Bank of our neighbor, Jefferson Parish..
I've always had a belief, founded in nothing but wishful thinking and my naive idealism, that tornadoes were not *allowed* to strike within ... oh.... lets say 15 miles of tall buildings in a city center. Then, on February 2nd of last year, tornadoes ripped through the New Orleans area, taking out (among other places) most of Iris Ave., the location of the Poche´ family home where Renard has been living since Katrina kicked the roof in on his Uptown apartment. His house and cars were badly damaged, as was his aunt's house next door.
It had only been 12 days since the kids and I returned from our forced Virginian exile. I was still in shock at the condition of the city, and this event blew my circuits. But I consoled myself by saying it was a just a fluke.
The night before last, when I heard we would be under a tornado watch, I called Renard to tell him about it. He joked that if what happened last year happened again, I'd be visiting him in some other city thereafter. "Oh, sure," I tell him, thinking, what are the chances of that? Having bouts of severe weather with the occasional accompanying tornado watch isn't uncommon in this area. Having tornadoes actually strike in the metro area is. I felt sure that it would be the usual thunderstorm thing and nothing more.
And then, some time after 3:00AM the night before last, just as in the wee house of February 2, 2006, tornadoes ripped through the area once again. And this time, the tornado cut a swath right through my neighborhood, just a mile as-the-crow-flies from Renard's house. He hasn't decided if this counts as the last straw or not.
This tornado started its reign of terror on the West Bank where it destroyed several homes and businesses before crossing the river near the Army Corps of Engineers facility. This is unnervingly close to the house of my former spouse, where my son was spending the night alone while his dad was out of town. Alex slept through it until he got a text message from a friend a few blocks away whose windows had been blown in. He and his dad's house were oka but I don't think he really understood what happened. He called me in the morning saying the bus to his school was late and there was a lot of tree debris in the street. At that point, I had no idea that a tornado hit the city. Had he not called me, I might have packed Rachel up and headed for her school.
The tornado's path from the river took it up through Black Pearl (a Riverbend neighborhood), missing Rachel's school by just a couple of blocks. You don't hear much about what the tornado did to houses in Black Pearl, but I saw some rather impressive damage there when I drove Rachel to school this morning.
From Black Pearl, the tornado crossed St. Charles Ave and dregged it's feet through the Carrollton/University area (or is it just called East Carrollton?) near where Ashley lives. He, his family and their home were fine, but nearby neighbors weren't so fortunate.
I was busy taking care of things that needed to be dealt with here at Mom's and couldn't get to my house right away to see how things were in my neighborhood. I finally made it there in the early afternoon and found no new damage to my house, but lots of debris in my yard. I found specimens from at least 4 different roofs strewn around. A sheet of pink foam insulation from under my house was up in the next-door neighbor's tree. There were pieces of corrugated metal roofing here and there. One of my next-door neighbor's windows had blown out and up the street, about 5 houses away, there was significant roof damage and tree debris. The Saints fan's house featured in a recent post was missing the entire back wall of its second floor. This house is, at a straight-shot, about 800 feet from my house (calculated via G-Map Pedometer), a fact I mention in order to acknowledge how lucky I feel to have been spared. This sucka was close, and not just to me.
From Carrollton , the twister moved into Gentilly, where it damaged more homes and took the life of an 86 year old woman who had been living in her FEMA trailer, just days away from her moving back into her repaired home following The Storm.
When I walked through my neighborhood yesterday, I had to really fight the tears. I can't even fathom how the victims of this tornado feel. My heart goes goes out to them all.
Please check out the pictures here (mine).
and these, too
(Times Picayune narrated slide show. (Some great pictures.)