NEW ORLEANS -- A tornado laid massive warehouses to waste and pried open brick office buildings like sardine cans in the industrial area near NASA’s Michoud facility in New Orleans East.
The most startling devastation was at the warehouse for Dupuy Storage & Forwarding LLC. A broken gas line hissed near the corner of the building as steel girders lay twisted and insulation from the structure’s obliterated walls and roof fluttered in the wind.
Another Dupuy warehouse near the Industrial Canal, about 3 miles to the west, was also hit by the twister.
Dupuy’s director of engineering, Ruben Manger, said he was going to check on the first warehouse when he saw twin tornadoes spinning to the east and heard he’d better hustle over to Warehouse No. 2, the one by the NASA facility.
Normally, the warehouse is used to store coffee and metal for other companies. But recently, it’s been used as a movie set for major Hollywood productions – including the Tom Cruise film “Jack Reacher.” But on Tuesday, it was empty.
“They were doing sets in there and that kind of stuff and they'll have as many as 100 people in that building at a time, so it was a blessing it came when it did,” Manger said.
Sheets of metal siding were strewn across Old Gentilly Road and draped over power lines. And at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Finance Center, directly across Old Gentilly Road from the Dupuy warehouse, chunks of the brick walls were ripped clean off by the destructive winds.
File cabinets, cubicle partitions, and desks could be seen from the road, along with the burgundy-colored sinks and stall doors of the women’s restroom in the east wing of the government building.
Looking dazed, USDA employees walked out after riding out the storm and found almost all of their vehicles damaged.
Most found their car windows shattered and, in at least one case, a car was tossed against its neighbor in the parking lot.
“Mostly everyone's vehicle suffered damage,” said Denise Blutcher, who works in human resources for USDA and tried to deal with the tiny glass shards on the seats of her SUV. “You got some on the back end of this side of the building really got damaged. A lot of the walls are down on the building. We have walls out, ceilings came in, but we all made it out safe.”
Blutcher said the agency had a shelter-in-place plan and all of the employees followed it to a tee by going to the center of their buildings and avoiding any significant injuries.