17 minutes of terror: New Orleans tornado had winds of 160 mph

Tornadoes were part of the same storm system that brought severe weather to the South over three days

NEW ORLEANS – The National Weather Service released more details about a powerful and deadly tornado that tore through the New Orleans metro area on Tuesday night.

Survey teams are continuing to investigate damage along the tornado's 11.5-mile path, but so far has given the twister an EF-3 rating with winds up to 160 mph.

The tornado first touched down in Jefferson Parish, located southwest of Terrytown, at 7:21 p.m. Central. From there, it moved northeast through the Westbank, where it caused some tree damage and damage to roofs, siding and fences, according to the latest National Weather Service survey.

Video then shows the tornado crossing the Mississippi River onto the Eastbank and into the town of Arabi in St. Bernard Parish.

The NWS said the most severe damage had been located from the riverbank to the canal in town, where two areas of concentrated EF-3 damage were discovered. The first was a home swept off its raised foundation with all of its walls and roof destroyed. That's also the area where one person was killed during the storm, according to the NWS.

The highest EF-3 damage was found at a home raised on cinder blocks, with every tower of blocks strapped to the house, as well as straps from the blocks to the foundation. The tornado pushed the home off its foundation about 50 yards to the north and rotated it about 90 degrees. The house next door was also pushed off its foundation and was destroyed.

The NWS said most if not all the homes along the tornado's path and within four blocks on either side received minor or substantial roof damage. Others had walls blown apart, leaving interior rooms intact.

The tornado then continued on, damaging electrical towers along the bank of the canal before moving across it. Damage was also found on the opposite side of the Intracoastal Waterway in New Orleans East but was considered to be minor.

The NWS said the tornado lifted back into the air at 7:38 p.m. Central in the area of Joe W. Brown Memorial Park.

Final assessments are still being completed, but so far, this tornado ties the strongest ever recorded in the city – another EF-3 that tore through New Orleans in February 2017.

On Wednesday, the NWS said they located damage consistent with an EF-1 tornado near Lacombe in St. Tammany Parish. That twister touched down near the Big Branch March National Wildlife Refuge on Highway 190 with winds of about 90 mph. Damage was reported at homes just north of the highway, including roof damage, a destroyed shed and dozens of trees that were snapped.

The tornado then continued to the northeast and crossed Interstate 12, where more trees were knocked over. It continued to track to the northeast along Highway 1088 before lifting back into the air about 3 miles north of Highway 36.

In total, the NWS said the tornado was on the ground for just over 12 miles and was around 100 yards wide.


"We have widespread damage in St. Bernard Parish," St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis told WVUE-TV in New Orleans. "The fire department and sheriff's department are doing search and rescue. All of our people are out there working hard to make sure our community is safe."

Tuesday night's tornadoes were part of the same system that brought severe weather across the South over three days.