By Message Staff
RUSTON – All Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief assessment and chainsaw teams are being activated following a devastating tornado that ripped through Ruston, and parts of Lincoln Parish in the early hours of Thursday, April 25.
The tornado which caused two known fatalities and significant structural damaged touched down around 2 a.m. The deadly storm left behind a trail of damage through the Louisiana Tech University campus and in parts of Ruston. Early photos and video shows fallen trees on top of cars, and awnings, canopies and signage strewn throughout. The ground was covered with debris.
State Disaster Relief Director Gibbie McMillian told the Baptist Message an incident command center will be operational out of Rolling Hills Ministries in Ruston, and volunteers will be housed at Temple Baptist Church in the city.
“We have needs for volunteers who can do chainsaw and rolled roofing, as well as assessors and chainsaws,” McMillan said. “Call Rolling Hills or if trained, contact your blue hat and await instructions.”
Concord Union Baptist Association Director of Missions Barry Joyner said no churches in the association reported damage, but the Baptist Collegiate Ministry’s chapel on the Louisiana Tech University campus had two large oak trees fall on its roof.
Elsewhere on campus, high winds blew out windows inside some dormitory rooms, downed trees and power lines, and heavily damaged its baseball, softball, and soccer stadiums, tennis courts, and track and field facilities.
“Louisiana Tech and the Ruston Community were hit by tornadoes early in the morning,” Louisiana Tech Director of Athletics Tommy McClelland said on his Twitter account. “Our student body & student-athletes are safe, which is our first & foremost concern. We have severe damage to many of our athletic facilities (baseball, softball, soccer, tennis and track & field), These can and will be rebuilt. The sun has just come up and we are accessing more of the damage. Thank you for your prayers and concerns for our community our campus and department.”
Louisiana Tech cancelled classes Thursday as school officials went about assessing the damage. A decision about the status of Friday classes is forthcoming.
“We are still assessing damage to the campus due to the tornado,” Louisiana Tech President Lee Guice said. “Power lines are down and a lot of debris is creating safety hazards. We all need to stay in place. Let us know if you have special needs. Classes are cancelled for Thursday.
“Quite a few roads are blocked off around campus. And it is very difficult to drive around campus. We ask people to stay off the roads unless necessary. We will clear roadways ASAP,” he continued. “Our students are providing great support and encouragement for each other.
“Looks like our core academic buildings are in good shape although trees are down in different parts of campus. We expect food services to be open since power appears to be OK on campus,” Guice wrote.
According to the Monroe News Star, the Cypress Springs subdivision and numerous businesses along the Farmerville Highway, both located near Interstate 20, also were significantly damaged.
Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone reported that two people, a mother and a son, died in a home near the Pizza Hut restaurant off I-20. The names of the victims had not been released.
Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker confirmed to KTBS-TV in Shreveport there had been two fatalities, but declined to identify the victims. There was additional non-life threatening injuries reported as well.
“We took a direct hit from this tornado,” Walker said. “It’s damaged a big part of our central core of the city. Unfortunately there have been two confirmed fatalities.”
The Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office asked drivers to remain off the roadways while crews remove downed trees and powerlines that are blocking roadways.
Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers wanting to help with the tornado response should call Rolling Hills Ministries at 318.251.0065.