Urgent tornado warnings were issued for the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas Tuesday evening as the South braced for severe weather a day after more than a dozen tornadoes struck Texas, officials said.
The National Weather Service later said that the tornado threat for New Orleans had passed. Warnings continued for the Slidell area, which is north of the city.
“We have major damage,” Guy McInnis, president of St. Bernard Parish, which is east of New Orleans, told NBC affiliate WDSU. “We’re doing search and rescue and searching homes right now.”
Earlier, the weather service issued a 7:22 p.m. warning for New Orleans to “find an interior closet, room or hallway and take cover!”
It said a large tornado was on the ground headed towards New Orleans East, and that damage had been reported in Gretna, on the western bank of the Mississippi River across from New Orleans.
Video from NBC affiliate WDSU of New Orleans appeared to show a funnel cloud.
The South was bracing for severe weather Tuesday, including tornadoes, one day after more than a dozen tornadoes struck Texas and Oklahoma, killing one person there.
Tornado watches covered an area from southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi and into most of Alabama on Tuesday night.
In Hinds County, Mississippi, storms tore down trees and power lines, emergency management officials said, and the weather prompted Mississippi State University in Starkville to switch to remote classes.
On Monday in Texas, a woman died after a tornado struck her home in Sherwood Shores, about 90 miles north of Dallas, the Grayson County Office of Emergency Management said Tuesday. The National Weather Service confirmed Tuesday that it was an EF-2 tornado.
More than a dozen people were injured in Monday’s tornadoes and severe weather, officials said.
At least 20 tornadoes were reported Monday across Texas, qualifying as a tornado outbreak. Jacksboro, Crockett, Madisonville, Elgin, Bowie and Rock Round in Texas, as well as Kingston, Oklahoma, were hit hard.
The severe weather shifted to the South on Tuesday, and a swath of the country from southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, and into central Alabama were under tornado watches, according to the weather service.
The risk of nocturnal tornadoes, which are more dangerous than their dayside counterparts, is expected to be lower than on Monday.
Many people are under both tornado and flood warnings: Tornado warnings suggest people seek shelter below ground, while flood warnings suggest people seek shelter on high ground, creating a difficult emergency reaction situation, experts said.
After they predicted higher-than-usual storm activity this week, forecasters warn that millions more people are expected to be at risk of severe weather Wednesday in a swath of the Eastern U.S. from northern Florida through North Carolina and up to the Indiana-Ohio border.
Meteorologists confirmed Tuesday that multiple strong tornadoes touched down Monday in Texas.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 16 counties in his state impacted by the severe weather.
Eleven tornadoes were confirmed in north and central Texas, including the deadly one in Sherwood Shores which had 130 mph winds, the weather service said. The strongest, an EF-3, was confirmed in Jacksboro. Another five were confirmed in eastern and southeastern Texas.
The National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma, said officials believe the most intense damage in the state from Monday’s storm was at the EF-2 level near Buncombe.
“Talking to local officials, we don’t believe there is any other damage to go higher than EF2 anywhere else,” they wrote.
Kathryn Prociv, Steve Strouss and Dennis Romero contributed.