ARABI, La. (WGNO) — One year ago, an EF3 tornado tore through the Southeast Louisiana town of Arabi.
With winds of more than 135 miles per hour, the tornado was on the ground for 11 miles, appearing to start in Gretna, then move east across the Mississippi River into the Lower 9th Ward and then St. Bernard Parish, causing damage to homes, vehicles, and lives in its path.
About 13,000 homes and businesses were reported without power in the three parishes around New Orleans after the storm, the Associated Press confirmed in the hours following the storm. Drone footage captured by WGNO shows a house that was ripped from its foundation and moved into the street, while another video shows an altar still standing despite the church around it being destroyed.
Two people died as a result of the tornado: 25-year-old Connor Lambert and 22-year-old Maria Celeste Burke. Lambert was a Chalmette High School and UL Lafayette graduate who was inside his truck when the tornado hit. Burke, who was disabled and on a ventilator, was inside her home when the tornado tore her house from its foundation. She died in the days following the storm.
Although a powerful storm, the March 22 tornado was just one of two tornados that tore through the town of Arabi in 2022. In December, another tornado struck the town less than two weeks before Christmas — something Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said was “absolutely heartbreaking.”
One year later and recovery efforts continue.
The neighborhood near Bayou Bienvenue is now full of empty lots, concrete slabs and for-sale signs.
“We’ve lost several neighbors because of insurance, they didn’t have enough money to rebuild and have now put their lots up for sale and have either gone to the North Shore or father down in the parish, which is more affordable,” homeowner Rodney Sorbet said.
Sorbet’s house received minor damage compared to some of his neighbors. On the one-year anniversary of the tornado, Sorbet was receiving help from some friends to complete repairs.
About a mile away at Old Arabi Marketplace, owner Lynda Catalanotto is busy at work, barely missing a beat since the tornado, even though a part of her store was destroyed.
“It took us a long time to rebuild [because of] difficulties with the house that went into the back of the building, and we had to wait for it to be demoed, but we were able to reopen the wing that was totally destroyed in December,” Catalanotto said.
The business owner says she learned something about herself after going through the trials and tribulations of this past year.
“I never thought of myself to be that strong of a person, but I think to get through what this year has brought, you kind have to put on your big girl pants and do it,” Catalanotto said.
Gallery: March 22 Tornado Damage
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