(WAFB) - The mammoth of a tornado that cut through a large portion of New Orleans East was one of about a handful ominous twisters that caught everyone by surprise and laid waste to several parts of southeast Louisiana Tuesday morning.
The destructive outbreak caused 39 reported injuries and damage to countless homes, but at this time, amazingly, no deaths.
As tears rolled down their faces, families gripped each other in a state of shock. Those in the affected areas say they are still reeling from the pure power and scope of these strong storms.
"A couple of seconds, that's all it took, just a couple of seconds," one viewer said.
Those couple of seconds were scary ones for many who call south Louisiana home. Right now, four tornadoes are believed to have touched down in the area; one in Killian, one in Convent, another in Donaldsonville, and one more in Watson. The strong storms left behind a swath of devastation, including homes in Donaldsonville that no longer have roofs, trailers toppled on their sides in Watson, and other structures in Killian that were leveled. A family of five huddled in their Watson bathroom during the storm, saying only a miracle kept them alive.
CONTINUING COVERAGE: Tornadoes rip through southeast Louisiana: February 7, 2017
"Two of my kids were sleeping. I woke them up and ran to the bathroom and I just was praying to God you know," Wanda Marler said. "Just in Jesus name. That's all I can say."
While many rode out the storm in their homes, it was first responders who were out and about. Some even got a firsthand look at the storm's approach. "I was actually parallel with the tornado, watching it come through the swamp, and as it hit this area, it was just a debris cloud. It was unbelievable," Killian Police Chief Dennis Hill explained.
As cleanup began on the streets, Governor John Bel Edwards got a bird's eye view of the widespread damage. He declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Louisiana.
"Today, we had a tough day across our state," Edwards added.
As crews get started on the long recovery process, those who rode out these dangerous storms say they are just glad the tornado outbreak wasn't worse. "That sort of destruction in that short amount of time, it could have done a lot worse than it did and I'm just thankful it didn't," Destin Marler said.
Volunteers with the Red Cross and Salvation Army have descended on many areas affected by the storms as the focus now shifts to recovery.