First Alert Weather In-Depth: New Orleans Tornado

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — When you see this kind of destruction there is no doubt there was a very significant tornado that made touchdown in Louisiana. Unfortunately, the folks in New Orleans did have some loss of life.

This is actually just part of a much larger area that had significant damage in the Deep South. There were a number of tornadoes, hail and straight-line wind reports. Let’s focus on just the tornado that struck New Orleans. The path of this tornado was roughly about 2 miles in length and this happened in Saint Bernard’s Parish. This is the same area that is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ada.

The statistics on this tornado is a rating of EF3. Remember the rating system, called the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which goes from zero to five. That is a pretty significant, moderate size twister. The winds were at least 136 mph and if you go back through the records there have only been 12 EF2’s or greater in the City of New Orleans. So that goes back to 1950 which is a record of some 72 years. Pretty significant and shows how rare it is for this kind of intense for New Orleans.

We know why these tornadoes develop. Often we get different wind speeds and different wind directions as we climb through the atmosphere in a thunderstorm cell. You then get a rotating column of air and that column gets drawn upright through the updraft. Then we can get that funnel cloud developing. Obviously, that is exactly what happened in New Orleans with the potential for a touchdown. If you are in a populated area you can start to see why they had some significant damage.

Fortunately, we do not see this kind of stuff very often here in Rochester, but we have the chance of maybe getting a thunderstorm for this Wednesday night.