NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The EF 3 tornado that hit New Orleans East will go down as the strongest tornado on record in Orleans Parish. We met up with the National Weather Service survey team as they assessed the damage.
The roar of the wind at Arsenio Guss's Citrus Street home was his first clue. Guss said, "It started getting really, really loud. The wind started busting the windows out and it started moving me." He got the warning, but it was too late. He said, "My cell phone. . .I had it in my hand and it started going off, but when it started going off I was hearing the noise."
That roar is replaced with the sounds of clean up and rebuilding today, but amidst the workers and Entergy trucks some other public servants are closely examining the wreckage. Ken Graham is the Meteorologist-In-Charge at the National Weather Service in Slidell. Graham points to a large tree branch. He said, "It's not just snapped. It's twisted. You can really see it's twisted.
Graham and fellow Meteorologist Danielle Manning made up one of the three teams investigating Tuesday's storm damage in southeast Louisiana. Graham said, "So we are looking at what the damage is so your entire EF rating for a tornado is based on damage and you take that damage, you match it up to known damage in the past from engineering studies and from that you can determine the wind speed."
The survey teams aren't only looking at the big picture like this home here that was devastated, but a lot of times it's the small details like this 2 by 4 through the roof that gives a real indication of the strength of the winds. Graham said, "When you start seeing the roof gone and all four exterior walls fail we are getting into that EF 3 highest winds."
The damage track also proves this storm was unique for our area in other ways. Graham said, "This is rare. This is a very large tornado. Not only that a multi-vortex tornado: a big tornado with small vortexes inside of it more typical of the mid-west we don't get too many of those here and to get a quarter mile to a half mile wide tornado in New Orleans."
Guss realizes this post mortem could help people in the future, but his experience also made him curious. He said, "I was kind of shocked because I was off of my feet and I was like I'm kind of heavy to be in the air." Working backwards from what we saw on radar Tuesday to seeing its aftermath not only quenches curiosity as to how strong wind needs to be to cause such destruction, but it also helps to improve forecasting saving lives during future outbreaks.
Click here to see all the tornado tracks on record for New Orleans since 1950. There have only been 18 storms total and previously the strongest was EF 2. The last time New Orleans saw an EF 2 was in 2007 when 25 people were injured and one woman died in a storm that moved through uptown along Carrollton and a second track developed through Pontchartrain Park.