By Message Staff
An outbreak of tornadoes left death and destruction in its path Friday, April 13, and Saturday, April 14, as tornadoes touched down in Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Lincoln and Union parishes, according to the National Weather Service.
Louisiana Disaster Relief teams wasted no time responding in the wake of the storms.
“Storms are a reality in Louisiana and we have volunteers ready and willing to help when needed,” Gibbie McMillan, state disaster relief director for Louisiana Baptists said. “Many ask why and the answer is so we can share the good news of the gospel. It seems like God uses the storm to get our attention and then we are called to respond with help healing and hope.”
McMillan said the tornado outbreak is a reminder of how valuable volunteers are for responding with Christ’s love in disastrous situations.
Besides uprooting trees, causing structural damage and knocking out power to more than 76,000 SWEPCO customers in a three Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana, the powerful storm claimed the life of 20-month-old Carli Ortiz, who was killed early Saturday when a tree feel on the recreational vehicle in which she was sleeping in the Hill Crest Mobile Home & RV Park in Haughton.
According to the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office, the incident occurred at around 12:20 a.m.
“Please keep the Ortiz family in your thoughts and prayers as they deal with the tragic loss of young Carli,” Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington wrote on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. “Our deputies worked diligently overnight alongside firefighters, emergency medical personnel and other first responders to check on and render aid to storm victims, and we will continue to work throughout the day to help others and ensure public safety. If you have any emergency needs or want us to check on an elderly, shut-in neighbor, or anyone else, please don’t hesitate to contact your Bossier Sheriff’s Office.”
There was also heavy damage to SWEPCO’s electric system included more than 100 broken utility poles.
The same tornado was responsible for causing roof damage to three hotels near the Monkhouse exit off Interstate 20 in Shreveport. It also knocked out the wall of a strip mall near Pierre Bossier Mall in Bossier City, caused trees to fall on some homes in Country Place subdivision near Eastwood and blew trees onto mobile homes off East Texas Street in Bossier City.
Near Bryceland, two barns were heavily damaged. The National Weather Service reported only the exterior walls were standing after the storm passed.
East of Downsville, a 100-year-old pecan tree was lifted and fell onto a residence.
The damage extended into Calhoun and Sterlington where two confirmed tornadoes cause extensive damage to a number of homes and businesses.
RELIEF TEAMS KEPT BUSY
Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief teams spent much of their weekend helping homeowners clean up after at least six tornadoes touched down in the northern part of the state.
Teams from First Baptist Church in Blanchard and First Baptist Church in Haughton worked Saturday to remove a tree that fell on a home in Haughton. The following day, the Haughton team cut up a tree that landed another home not far from the first site they visited.
Both teams were scheduled to attend a disaster relief training session already scheduled at Temple Baptist Church in Ruston Saturday, but changed their plans as the outbreak of tornadoes caused extensive damage in northwest Louisiana.
Mark Hangerman, missions minister and a member of the First, Haughton disaster relief team, said the situation provided an opportunity for his church to be Christ’s hands and feet.
“People are in a crisis situation that more than likely they have never faced before,” he said. “They are thankful to be alive.
“At the first home we went to, the tree missed impaling the homeowner by a foot,” he said. “That gave us the opportunity to talk about how close to life and death he was, and share the gospel.”
Meanwhile, a scheduled disaster relief training session attended by around 60 at Temple Baptist also turned into a hands-on mission opportunity for some volunteers.
Assessors traveled Saturday morning throughout south Ruston, an area that saw homes heavily damaged by fallen trees.
Assessor Marvin Leleux, pastor of Springhill Baptist Church in Ringgold, helped an elderly couple who were upset that a tree limb punctured their den ceiling. Once some volunteers were called in to remove the tree, the homeowners were at ease.
“When someone is found to be despondent with a situation that they can’t get themselves out of, and the Lord has blessed me with the tools and experience to help them get out of that situation, it is a humbling and gratifying experience all because of the cross,” Leleux said.
John Cowling, director of ministries for Rolling Hills, said Saturday afternoon volunteers distributed water, apples, oranges, bananas and prepared meals for about 50 people.
Cowling said ministry volunteers planned to hand out meals Monday, April 16, to more than 100 children whose homes were damaged by the storm.
“It’s a tremendous joy to be able to love the people who are in your city in a time of need,” Cowling said. “This is our calling. We have that desire to fulfill a need and check on people who live just a few miles from where our ministry center is located. We know God has called us to love the people and to meet their needs.”