Louisiana hit with more damage

BY JOSH LEWIS | HOUMA, LA | March 21, 2000


HOUMA, LA (March 21, 2000) -- More severe weather struck this area over the weekend, bringing flooding and more damage as residents continued to pick up the pieces after last week's tornado ripped through more than a mile of the city.

Trees, fences, and other minor structures were felled in heavy winds and rains Saturday and 60 percent of Terrebonne Parish experienced severe street flooding, said Michael Deroche, director of the parish's Office of Emergency Preparedness.

"The damage was consistent with 'straight line' winds. There were trees uprooted instead of snapped like they do in tornadoes," Deroche said.

Severe hail storms damaged automobiles and other property. The number of homes flooded over the weekend is still being assessed, he added. And with the exception of precipitation, the latest foul weather affected a different part of the city than that hit by the tornado.

The number of homes suffering tornado damage has topped 190 and is still rising, Deroche said. Ten to fifteen businesses were affected by the storm, he added.

City and parish crews will be working for the next couple of weeks to clean up the damage, Deroche said.

The area Unmet Needs Committee held its first meeting Monday and prepared for a meeting later this week when member agencies will begin handling cases.

The American Red Cross shelter housed as many as 30 people over the weekend, but that number had dropped to eight and officials hoped to close the shelter Tuesday.

The biggest need now is for building materials, said Velma Watson, associate director of the Terrebonne Readiness and Assistance Committee (TRAC), an interfaith and interagency organization established after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

The committee is also addressing the funeral costs for the families of the two men killed when a waterspout capsized their shrimp boat in the Gulf of Mexico hours before a tornado hit the city.

One family had to take out a mortgage in excess of $2,000 to cover expenses for the funeral and to buy a burial plot from a local church.

Several members of the faith-based response community attended the meeting, including representatives of Catholic Social Services, Adventist Community Services, St. Vincent DePaul Society, as well as local Catholic, United Methodist, United Church of Christ, and non-denominational churches.

Several attendees were also members of the Louisiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) and TRAC.

The Unmet Needs Committee was able to convene so quickly after the disaster largely due to TRAC, said several of those in attendance.

"We were organized after (Hurricane) Andrew. We came up with a model and we had TRAC in place with the staff to pull everybody together," said Robert Gorman, director of Catholic Social Services, Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.

In addition to homes, weekend floodwaters made their way into area churches as well: St. Lucy Catholic Church and Grace Lutheran Church, which also suffered broken stained-glass windows and a leaking roof that allowed water into the sanctuary.

St. Lucy had up to three inches of water in its gym and daycare center. Staff members Monday were mopping floors and pulling soiled carpet, furniture, and other materials out of classrooms to be disinfected.

Prior to the recent spate of storms, Houma had been as thirsty for rain as much of the rest of the South.

"We prayed for it," said Karen Price, manager of St. Lucy's daycare center. "So you've got to be careful what you pray for sometimes."

Posted March 21, 2000


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