NEW ORLEANS – Unsuspecting guests aboard a massive crew ship sailing down the Mississippi River got quite the sight on Tuesday when a tornado crossed right in front of the boat’s path, and the entire incident was captured on video.
Barge Captain David Poindexter was waiting out the severe weather along the riverbank in New Orleans when he noticed ominous clouds and birds acting unusual in the sky.
"The seagulls and ducks got into a big bunch and started screaming like I’ve never heard before. And it wasn’t long after that, and the tornado dropped down," Poindexter said.
The boat captain took out his cellphone and captured video of the tornado’s trek from southwest to northeast across the Mississippi River, but to his surprise, the 48,000-ton Seven Seas Mariner cruise ship was also in frame and likely too close for comfort.
"I think the cruise ship probably slowed down. I would say there was a minute or two between them at the most," Poindexter said, referring the apparent close call.
The weather veteran said he had never seen a tornado before along the river, but boats are always aware of the weather situation because radios constantly monitor for alerts.
"It was my first tornado. We ride hurricanes out all the time including Delta and Ida. But for those you can prepare for them, and you got plenty of time to tie stuff down and get the vessel ready. For a tornado you don’t have time to prepare," Poindexter said.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises did not respond to request for comment on the apparent close call with the twister but marine tracking websites showed the cruise ship on schedule to its next stop in Galveston, Texas.
A representative for the Coast Guard said the agency was aware of the video, but the ship did not request any assistance after the storm and continued on its way.
On Wednesday, the National Weather Service examined the tornado’s path and said damage leads them to believe the twister was an EF-3 with winds greater than 136 mph when it tore through.
The cruise goers who got a front row view of the twister are on a 25-day excursion that left Miami on March 16 and will visit cities along the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean before arriving back in Miami.