By Staff, Baptist Message
Once again, violent storms have shredded much of north/central Louisiana as powerful storms packing high winds, damaging hail and blinding rain left thousands shaken and more than 75,000 without power.
Authorities in Natchitoches, DeSoto, Caddo, Caldwell, Franklin, LaSalle, Winn, Rapides, Catahoula and Concordia parishes reported a number of trees down, homes damaged and people without electricity or phone service.
In addition to the swath of destruction, tragically two people were confirmed killed by falling limbs and a one-year old baby was injured when a tree fell on its parent house in the Kickapoo area.
Mansfield Police Chief Gary Hobbs gave an indication of the extent of the storm damage.
He reported 25 homes had trees on top of them and there were an estimated 70 to 100 trees blocking roads. Hobbs says the police department, fire department and city officials have been working tirelessly to get the roads clear from tree limbs and downed power lines.
“We are so blessed here in the city. We did have to extricate an elderly couple, but other than that we really didn’t have any reports of injuries, and to be in such a heavily populated area where it hit, we’re absolutely blessed and fortunate in that aspect,” said Hobbs.
According to the National Weather Service in Shreveport at least three confirmed EF-1 Tornadoes touched down in Winn Parish and possibly two more — one in Natchitoches Parish and the other in eastern Caldwell Parish during Sunday’s severe weather.
The first tornado occurred at 7:52 pm 4 miles south-southeast of Goldonna. The tornado was on the ground for 1.14 miles. The second tornado also occurred 4 miles southeast of Goldonna. The twister touched down at 7:52 pm carving a path of 127 yards.
The third tornado touched down at 8:07 a.m., just to the west of Winnfield near Calvin. It was on the ground for 135 yards. All three packed winds of 95 mph according to the NWS.
TORNADO THE CULPRIT
One of those tornadoes is suspected to have caused the damage sustained by Goldonna Baptist Church.
Pastor Jason Womack, who was on vacation with his family in Florida when the storm blew through the area Sunday, told the Baptist Message a huge oak tree fell across the northwest end of the gymnasium. The high winds ripped off the metal roof on the sanctuary, allowing the rain to pour through the ceiling and into the worship center.
Womack said the congregation will worship in the fellowship hall for the duration of the restoration of the worship center.
Even with the destruction, Womack said God’s hand of protection was evident.
“There is a couple who temporarily live in a church-owned house next to our gymnasium,” he said. “That tree could have taken the entire house and family out, but there was not a scratch on either.
“People seem to be excited instead of upset,” he continued. “As one lady said events like this seem to act as fertilizer. Seeds grow best on plowed ground.”
HAND OF GOD
Meanwhile, some at Trinity Baptist Church in Natchitoches spent their Memorial Day holiday helping clean up the yards of fellow members of the church, whose building was not damaged. Associate Pastor David Mercer expressed gratitude Pastor Josh Currie came to his home to help saw off limbs that were blocking his driveway.
“Please pray for all impacted to receive encouragement to rebuild what has been lost and wisdom to do so wisely,” Mercer said “Also, pray that through this disaster lives can be changed to build God’s kingdom.”
Several DR crews are expected in Natchitoches Parish later today, May 30, as damage assessment is completed.
Straight-line winds are to blame for the extensive damage in Olla, Hebert and Franklin Parish including the parsonage next to First Baptist Church, Winnsboro.
Pastor Craig Beeman wrote on Facebook, “Compared to some, we really did not get much damage other than some shingles ripped off to the bare wood and a number of limbs blocking church parking and the driveway to the parsonage.”
Beeman said, “Crowville and Liddyville got hit harder than we did. We are probably going to activate our DR chainsaw crew at some point in very near future. Eddy Rhymes and I are going to go survey those areas today and we will have a better fix on what is needed.”
WEATHER TURNS DEADLY
The Louisiana State Police reported 21-year-old Demontre Lewis of Mansfield died when a car he was a passenger in was hit by a falling tree.
A Ford F-150 driven by 52-year-old Collis Boyd of Gloster was traveling west during a severe thunderstorm when it was struck by a falling tree.
Boyd and his front-seat passenger 59-year-old Glen Jones, also of Gloster, sustained moderate injuries and were transported to University Health in Shreveport for treatment.
Caldwell Parish Sheriff Clay Bennett believes high winds are the reason a tree fell on a home killing 17-year-old Michael Wilson.
“We were really unprepared for it [the straight-line winds],” said Caldwell Parish Sheriff Clay Bennett. “We didn’t have any advance warnings the high-winds were coming.”
Bennett said while the high winds were strong he did not believe it was a tornado.
A damage survey team from the National Weather Service in Shreveport was investigating storm-related damage in Hebert (Caldwell Parish) and Cypress (Natchitoches Parish) today, May 30.