SHREVEPORT, LA (April 24, 2000) -- Emergency management officials
are assessing the damages today from six tornadoes that roared through downtown Shreveport and surrounding communities Sunday evening, injuring at least seven people.
The twisters damaged buildings and toppled trees in northwestern Louisiana. The downtown area was blocked off Monday morning as emergency vehicles worked to clear the roads. Some 25,000 people were still without power Monday morning.
At least one funnel cloud touched down directly in the heart of Shreveport, littering the streets with ripped siding, shattered glass from
storefront windows, and downed trees. One woman suffered a heart attack during the storm.
Twisters also hit surrounding areas, especially in the town of
Castor. Through Louisiana bore the brunt of the storm, homes in Oklahoma and
eastern Texas also sustained damages. The town of Marshall, TX was hardest hit in that state, where a possible tornado knocked down trees and power lines. In Oklahoma, the town of Hartshorne was hardest hit, and one woman sustained minor injuries.
Chuck Mazziotti, director of the Caddo-Bossier Parish Office of
Emergency Preparedness in Louisiana, was driving to his office to oversee earlier storm damage assessments Sunday night when a tornado tracked directly
over his Chevy Blazer.
"I was driving about 10 mph when the winds just kept getting stronger
and stronger. Then the tornado blew out the windows in my car. I got
to the floor and prayed. The wind was just howling. It really is a
train-like sound. Somehow, my car stayed upright," he said. "I've
been working in emergency response for 27 years and I've never seen a
tornado, let alone been in one."
"After that, I just drove on in to the office. I saw quite a bit of
damage through Shreveport. There were downed trees and power lines,
and small buildings were just torn up. Now I'm assessing damages
and my car is out there getting rained on. It doesn't matter," he
Some of the most severe impact occurred in a residential neighborhood south of Shreveport where at least 20 homes were damaged. Other pockets of extensive damage dot the Shreveport area, which has a population of about 340,000.
Mazziotti said his office has opened two Emergency Operations Centers.
One shelter was also already open to house displaced tornado survivors,
and the office was planning to open up to two additional shelters if necessary.
Joe Powell, captain of the Benton Volunteer Fire Department,
reporting for duty because of storm damages, was also caught by
surprise and parked under an overpass as a tornado knocked two
tractor trailer trucks over nearby.
The tornado was a grim repeat of last year, when a tornado ripped
through the Shreveport area the day before Easter. That twister cut
an 8-mile swath across the Red River that continued through major
suburban subdivisions, including two mobile home parks. Six people
died in that storm, and more than 100 were injured. The hardest-hit
towns were Benton and Bossier City.
Last year, in Benton the Twin Point Trailer Park and Hay Meadow
Trailer Park were largely swept away. All those who died were
residents of one of the two trailer parks. That storm destroyed more
than 300 homes, and scores of people gathered at canteens and
Last month, a tornado raked the town of Houma, damaging nearly 200
homes. Within Louisiana, disaster recovery is often overseen by the
interfaith group Terrebonne Recovery Assistance Committee (TRAC).
That organization formed in the wake of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
TRAC also works to prepare people for future disasters.
TRAC annually produces a 64-page guide for each of 13 southeastern
Louisiana parishes titled "Surviving the Storm, A Citizens Guide to
Emergency Preparedness" and has produced several videos on the
subject, including one called "Cooking Up a Storm," demonstrating how
to prepare and store food in times of disaster.
The organization has produced public service announcements in four
languages, as well as educational materials for the home health care
industry that particularly touch on issues for the elderly and
In 1995, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) named TRAC
one of its models for the United States and published a summary of
the organization in their Exemplary Practices in Emergency Management
A study released last month by FEMA, which included a poll of people
living in Louisiana, found that more than half of people polled had
done nothing to safeguard their homes against tornadoes.
Fifty-six percent of 282 adults living in Louisiana and 14 other
states had taken no preventative measures, and 44 percent -- all
residing in tornado-prone states -- were unaware that actions taken
before a tornado could prevent tornado damage.
Among FEMA's recommendations include anchoring devices, reinforcing
garage doors, installing clips or straps to secure doors and roofs,
ensuring that homes meet building code requirements for high-wind
areas, properly bracing the end wall of gabled roofs to reduce lift,
and building tornado-safe rooms in homes and businesses. The survey
was conducted by FEMA's Project Impact division. Project Impact is an
initiative that encourages disaster-resistant communities.
Even as emergency officials respond to this season's tornadoes, they
are planning for hurricane season. Emergency managers met this month
in New Orleans to discuss more effective evacuations during hurricane
Updated April 24, 2000
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