Cleanup Starts In LaPlace After Tornado Rips City Apart
LAPLACE, LA (AP) — The hum of chain saws and generators could be heard Wednesday throughout neighborhoods in LaPlace, Louisiana, where residents are cleaning up after a tornado ripped up trees, tore roofs from houses and terrified those who lived there.
Residents scrambled to cover holes in roofs with plastic sheeting and board up shattered windows. Officials said more than 200 houses and businesses were damaged by the twister, one of up to 24 estimated to have hit the Gulf Coast region Tuesday.
Gerry Deloume, 47, and her family spent the day sifting through the wreckage trying to find anything they could salvage. She was home with the flu, laying in her bed when she heard the sound of the tornado. She grabbed her two daughters, ran to the bathroom and they jumped in the bathtub along with their dog.
"It's that loud freight train. You can't miss it. It's that howling wind that cannot be mistaken for anything else," she said.
The front and back of her house were both caving in Wednesday, vast portions of the roof were missing and bits of insulation and shards of wood were strewn everywhere. Deloume said she suspects they'll have to tear down and start over — again.
She said they evacuated during Hurricane Isaac when water was chest level in the streets. But they rebuilt and three years ago, moved back in.
Tuesday's storm was part of a system that spawned about two dozen tornadoes along the Gulf Coast, damaging hundreds of homes in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. Three people were killed in Louisiana and Mississippi and dozens were injured.
Bill Bunting with the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, estimated 20 to 24 tornados hit from Louisiana to Florida on Tuesday. Crews were still surveying and assessing damages so he couldn't be more specific.
The National Weather Service confirmed that at least seven tornadoes hit Mississippi.
The strongest twister, rated EF-2, killed 73-year-old Dale Purvis when it struck a mobile home in southern Lamar County. National Weather Service meteorologist Brad Bryant said Wednesday the storm had a 5.5 mile path with top estimated winds of 115 mph. A second Lamar County tornado spawned by the same thunderstorm was rated EF-1, with a 1.4-mile path up to 75 yards wide and top winds of 90 mph.
EF-1 rated tornadoes hit in Lincoln County, west-southwest of Bogue Chitto; in Pearl River County, southwest of Poplarville and in Green County near Avera. A Simpson County tornado was rated EF-0 as was one that went through Yazoo County near Benton.
Darren Miller was helping his parents Wednesday fix damage to their LaPlace home. Miller said he saw the twister as he was returning to the house after retrieving a laptop from his car. At one point, he said he couldn't even see across the street. He ran into the house and told his family to hit the ground, just as the windows exploded.
"It felt like a long time but I guess you could say within a minute. It was real quick," Miller said. "It will make your heart pump."
One of the hardest-hit areas along the Gulf Coast was a recreational vehicle park in Convent, Louisiana. RVs were tossed about and lay on top of wrecked cars and pickup trucks.
Two people were killed there, and 31 injured people were taken to area hospitals, said St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin.
Briaxton Lott, 23, was in the trailer park when the tornado hit. The pad where his trailer once sat was empty and he pointed to the remnants of it about 100 feet away.
"The whole front end came up and slammed back down, and I grabbed up the baby and the next thing I know we just went rolling end over end," Lott said.
His destroyed trailer ended up next to three trailers that appeared untouched. When asked his plans for the future Lott said: "Just keep moving forward. We'll definitely be going to church Sunday, definitely."
– by AP Reporters Rebecca Santana and Max Becherer