Officially, tornadoes are rated based on the damage they do. The "Enhanced Fujita" (EF) scale runs from EF-0 to EF-5, based on increasing levels of destruction. By the time you reach EF-5, you're looking at complete devastation. EF-0 storms, at the weak end of the scale, are associated with "little or no damage"—meaning that an EF-0 twister wouldn't usually knock down a building.
Not usually—but there are exceptions. Some decrepit old buildings are so weak that you could practically knock them over with a feather. And that's what happened in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans in early August. The episode drew attention, not so much to the power of heavy weather, but to the city's ongoing problem with neighborhood blight and the continuing legacy of 2005's Hurricane Katrina.
Local TV station WDSU has a report (see: "Blighted properties flattened by tornado, neighbors fault city of New Orleans," by Casey Ferrand). "Three vacant properties in the historic neighborhood were flattened, and at least two of the properties had multiple code violations dating back to 2009," the station reported. "Neighbors near a collapsed home in the 1300 block of Kerlerec Street were angry that it took a tornado to knock it down after years of complaints to the city. The property collapsed beneath the strength of Mother Nature, and only the interior stairway still stands." City records show one of the collapsed buildings had been cited eight times for code violations, and another had received nine citations. One collapsed-home's owner told the station that the rear of the building had collapsed during Katrina. Local station WWL also posted a video report on the next-day cleanup (see: "Treme, 7th Ward clean up after EF-0 tornado," by Lauren Bale). And the Times-Picayune also carried a brief story accompanied by a slideshow (see: "Clean up begins after New Orleans tornado," by Emma Scott).
As a commenter on the Times-Picayune website pointed out, Google Street View offers a curbside photo of the destroyed building at 1326 Kerlerec as it used to look before it fell down — an image that confirms the view expressed by some locals that the storm's destruction was a blessing in disguise for the neighborhood.
Blighted New Orleans House Flattened by Tornado — Google Street View
The storm has brought attention to the city's severe and continuing problem with blight, station WWL reported (see: "Tornado-damaged buildings ignite new anger about blight," by Bill Capo). Code Enforcement Director Chad Dyer told the station, "we have one of the most robust code enforcement departments in the entire country, and again, as I said, we've done more blight, and we've done it faster than anybody in the United States, but it is just a tedious process."
Dyer told the station that the city has thousands of blighted structures, but has money to demolish only a few hundred a year. Dyer is working on a plan to enlist local residents and community leaders to help, he said.