UPDATE, 3:20 p.m.:
The severe weather moving through Kenner on Tuesday tore off the back wall of the New Mount Bethel Baptist Church in the Lincoln Manor neighborhood.
Melvin Robertson, who sits on New Mount Bethel’s board of deacons, said it was about 10:30 a.m. when the church in the 1400 block of 31st Street was damaged. Aside from the back wall, strong winds also wrecked a fence isolating the building’s air conditioning unit as well as some grease trap equipment, Robertson said.
Robertson said the church planned on continuing its normally-scheduled activities after cleaning up the debris and covering up the back wall. Church leaders were hopeful that there were no other major storm-related issues affecting the building.
Kenner’s New Mount Bethel counts on a 200-member congregation, Robertson said. Most of them live in Kenner, Metairie or LaPlace, and none were at the church when it was damaged.
The church is well north of the Kenner spot where National Weather Service and Jefferson Parish officials said a tornado touched down about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, causing damage in the Oakland subdivision.
UPDATE, 12:47 p.m.:
A tornado touched down in a field near Oakland subdivision just after 11:30 a.m. and while there were no injuries reported, there were several reports of wind damage from residents on nearby streets, according to the National Weather Service and Jefferson Parish Emergency officials.
Kenner emergency preparedness coordinantor Doug Dodt said a funnel cloud was spotted by city workers and the airport tower near the airport at 11:21 a.m., though the cloud moved to the Oakland area south of Airline Drive before touching down as a tornado.
Dodt said it appears that the damage reported by residents in the 500 blocks of Salvadore Lane and Centanni Road at 11:28 was from straight-line wind and that the city has seen no photographs of the kind of twisted debris that comes from tornado damage.
Weather service officials will be out to the site to examine the damage and make a determination in the next day or so.
A large tree was also reported down in the 700 block of Pollock Road and Entergy officials have been notified, Kenner said.
Acting Mayor Michael Sigur has ordered the activation of the Kenner Emergency Action Team and the Kenner Help Line – (504) 468-HELP also has been activated for residents to report any damage related to the weather.
Following the lead of Jefferson Parish, Kenner, Gretna, Harahan and Westwego closed their non-emergency offices at 2 p.m. because of the severe weather.
The storms, some of which could be severe, are forecast to arrive during the afternoon hours and continue into the early evening, according to the National Weather Service.
Weather forecasters said Tuesday that high winds, hail, lightning and the chance of tornadoes are possible during the day as the system moves through the area, which is under a tornado watch until 10 p.m.
Citizens are asked to help reduce the chance of street flooding by clearing debris from their streets and drains around their property when it is safe to do so.
Jefferson Parish schools are still open for regularly scheduled hours, but all after-school activities including athletics, after-school care and all adult education classes are canceled.
The 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna will close at 2 p.m., as will parish and juvenile court.
In Kenner, Acting Mayor Michael Sigur said tonight’s meeting for Kenner residents living near the construction area for the Louis Armstrong International Airport’s new North Terminal has been rescheduled for 6 p.m. on March 1 at Susan Park Gym, 502 Veterans Blvd.
Airport spokeswoman Michelle Wilcut said at 11:45 a.m. that the airport is functioning normally and planes are still taking off and landing.
As of 3 p.m., there have been 18 delays and three cancellations, according to the website FlightAware.com.