Arabi tornado was strongest in New Orleans history, NWS confirms

Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 11:20 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 24, 2022 at 11:52 AM CDT

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A rare, multi-vortex tornado ripped through St. Bernard and Orleans Parishes at EF-3 strength, according to surveys from the National Weather Service.

The tornado had peak winds of 160 mph and traveled over 11 miles, the NWS said on Thursday. The path of the tornado was 320 yards wide.

Compared to the New Orleans East tornado of 2017, which had winds of 150 mph, the Arabi tornado on Tuesday is the strongest to hit the New Orleans area on record.

The most intense damage was from the riverbank to the canal in Arabi. It was a very narrow, intense tornado with two areas of concentrated EF3 damage. One was a house that was swept off its raised foundation with all walls and the roof destroyed. This was near where the one fatality occurred. Due to poor construction, this was EF3. The highest EF3 rating was given to a house that was constructed in the last 6 months. While this house was raised on cinder blocks, every tower of blocks had strapping to the house. The house had additional strapping directly into the foundation, as well as strapping from the cinder blocks to the foundation. The house itself held together but was shifted about 50 yards to the north and rotated about 90 degrees. The house next door was also swept off the foundation, moved and mostly destroyed.

EF-3 tornadoes carry strong winds between 136-165 mph. The tornado struck Arabi, the Lower 9th Ward, and parts of New Orleans East.

Multi-vortex tornado crossing through the Lower 9th Ward, New Orleans East (Credit: WVUE viewer Brad Cheramie)

At least one person was killed in Arabi. Homes were leveled, cars destroyed, and power lines downed.

Drone video captured the extent of the damage in St. Bernard Parish the following morning.

A second EF-1 tornado with 90 mph winds formed over Lake Ponchartrain and moved into central St. Tammany Parish.

Damage on the North Shore appeared relatively limited and isolated to wooded areas.

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