By Staff, Baptist Message
LIVINGSTON – A Louisiana Baptist chainsaw team spent most of their Thursday cutting up trees around homes and removing debris left behind from a tornado that caused massive destruction earlier in the week in Livingston Parish.
The team comprised of volunteers from Eastern Louisiana Baptist Association and Baptist Association of Southeast Louisiana worked on five homes three miles northeast of Livingston. David Brown, associational missions coordinator for Eastern Louisiana Baptist Association and a member of the association’s disaster relief team, said the team expects to remain in the area through at least Saturday before possibly moving onto other locations in the parish.
Ben Fussell, a member of the Baptist Associations of Southeast Louisiana chainsaw team, said the homeowners they came in contact expressed gratitude.
“Everywhere we went we heard ‘thanks for coming, thanks for helping, thanks for working, thanks for caring,’” said Fussell, a member of First Baptist Church in Franklinton.
Teams from the National Weather Service out of Slidell spent much of Thursday investigating the damage from the tornadoes and by Thursday evening confirmed that at least 12 tornadoes had set down in the state – 11 in southeast Louisiana and one in southwest Louisiana.
Convent, LaPlace, Paincourtville and Livingston Parish sustained the most significant damage from the tornadoes which packed winds of 111-135 miles per hour according to the NWS.
The killer storm that ripped through the Assumption and St. James parish communities of Paincourtville and Convent carved a path 21 miles long and 300 to 350 yards wide. At Convent, the tornado leveled much of Sugar Hill RV Park, killed two people and injured more than 30.
Previously ranked as an EF-2 with maximum winds of 111 to 135 miles per hour, the NWS upgraded the storm Thursday evening to an EF-3 which had maximum winds of 140 miles per hour.
In LaPlace, where several other Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief teams worked to place blue tarps on roofs, remove debris and cut down tree limbs Thursday, after a tornado damaged more than 200 homes.
The teams also ministered in Reserve, located five miles west of LaPlace. Two chainsaw teams, one tarp team and three assessor teams that included a chaplain with each assessor team are working the area. Celebration Church’s River Parishes campus in LaPlace was accepting donations and distributing supplies to residents in the area.
Northshore Baptist Association Director of Missions Lonnie Wascom said the churches in the association ‘jumped a snake’ Tuesday and came away without any storm damage.
“The Northshore is in great shape,” Wascom said. “We are doing everything we can to help in other areas — LaPlace, Napoleonville, Livingston and Doyle — and wish we could do more. Unfortunately, $20,000 worth of disaster relief equipment from the chainsaw unit for Woodland Park Baptist Church in Hammond and the feeding unit for the association was stolen between Jan. 24 and Feb 5.”
Stolen items include eight Stihl chainsaws, tools, tables, a commercial grade pneumatic can opener, compressors, stainless steel preparation tables, propane burners and the full range of feeding unit equipment.
“We have one of three feeding units in the state and we would love to be over in Convent feeding those poor people who lost everything,” said Wascom. “But we can’t because of what these criminals stole. As a matter of fact, they took items that didn’t even make sense.”
The Northshore feeding unit is capable of feeding up to 18,000 meals a day.
“Thank God, the Salvation Army’s unit is there and with the help of the Red Cross they are taking care of those people’s needs,” Wascom said. “Had it not been for those criminals, we could have done so much more.”
For more information on Louisiana Baptist disaster relief work, go to louisianabaptists.org/disasterrelief. Information can be found on how to volunteer for disaster relief efforts and ways to donate money for the ministry.