Tuesday’s tornado activity is one for the history books with 11 confirmed tornadoes in a single day in southeast Louisiana and one in southwest Louisiana claiming the lives of two people and destroying homes and businesses, all in a matter of hours.
For the last several days, National Weather Service staff has been checking on damage reports, measuring tornado track damage and making designations on the strength of each tornado as measured by the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
The scale classifies tornadoes based on the damage they do and a number of other factors, like construction methods of structures. The scale runs from EF-0 at the weakest, with three-second wind gusts estimated to be between 65 and 85 mph, up to EF-5 as the strongest, with three-second wind gusts of more than 200 mph.
On Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service staff confirmed tornadoes hit the following locations: Prairieville (EF-0), Livingston (EF-2), southeast of Montpelier (EF-0), LaPlace (EF-2), Interstate 55 south of Manchac (EF-1), Kenner (EF-0), Madisonville (EF-0), Lacomb (EF-0), two in White Castle (EF-0) and one strong storm that hit Paincourtville and Convent (EF-3).
The storm that ripped through the Assumption and St. James parish communities of Paincourtville and Convent was the strongest tornado to hit either parish since tornado records officially began in 1950, according to information compiled by Tornado Project Online. That particular tornado carved a path 21 miles long and 300 to 350 yards wide, destroying homes and businesses including a trailer park near Convent in which two people were killed.
An EF-3 typically has estimated wind speeds of between 136 mph and 165 mph as measured by the Enhanced Fujita Scale. NWS staff estimates the tornado that blasted through Convent at one point had winds of around 140 mph.
The ratings are based on the worst damage found but doesn’t mean the tornado was at that strength along the whole track.
The last time there was an EF-3 tornado in Louisiana was on May 26, 2011, in Bush, according to the National Weather Service.
NWS called Tuesday the biggest tornado event the Baton Rouge/New Orleans office has responded to since 1989, when a June weather system brought multiple tornadoes to the Baton Rouge area. Several hundred homes and businesses were destroyed or damaged in and around the parish and two people lost their lives in Grosse Tete, according to reports in The Advocate at that time.
In comparison, southwest Louisiana was fairly quiet with one confirmed EF-1 tornado that touched down between Baldwin and Franklin. The tornado traveled on the ground for 2.6 miles, damaging two businesses and 28 homes around 2:30 p.m.
On average, Louisiana gets about 37 tornadoes every year and only two of those arrive in February, according to information from the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.