Damages rising in deadly twister

BY GEORGE PIPER | SHREVEPORT | April 8, 1999


SHREVEPORT (April 8, 1999) -- The extent of destruction is becoming

apparent in northwest Louisiana as disaster relief officials continue the

task of clearing debris left by Saturday's deadly tornadoes.

Officials tallied 338 residences -- about half of those were mobile homes --

damaged or destroyed in Bossier and Caddo parishes. Of 153 mobile homes

affected, 90 were destroyed and 29 sustained major damage. Among single

family homes, the numbers are 23 destroyed and 84 with major damage.

Most items that weren't covered, but might have been salvageable after

Saturday's disaster, was probably destroyed on Sunday when up to eight

inches of rain flooded the area.

"There's so much mud out there," said Charles Mazziotti, civil defense

director for Bossier and Caddo parishes. "It just makes it much more

difficult to get out there and clean up."

Saturday's twisters caused six deaths and injured about 140. Mazziotti said

damage estimates are up to $15 million, although it appears 90 percent of

homeowners carried property insurance. National Weather Service officials

said at least two and up to eight tornadoes cut a five-mile-long,

300-yard-wide path through Benton, Bossier City and Caddo.

State and county officials expect an announcement this week whether the

area will gain a federal disaster declaration, which could include flood

damage. An initial declaration would include debris cleanup, but Mazziotti

hopes to eventually be able to get individual assistance for disaster

survivors.

Parish officials and National Guard troops armed with chainsaws and backhoes

are now making their way through the communities. But with thousands of

trees down, Mazziotti believes it will take at least a month just to clear

the dead wood away.

Bossier Parish is not immune to tornado activity. A tornado deemed an F-4 on

the Fujita Scale tore through Bossier City on Dec. 3, 1978. The 1:30 a.m.

twister was at that time the strongest early-morning tornado ever recorded,

said Mazziotti. Five died in that storm, and Mazziotti said the property

damage then was worse than this year.

And in the past two years, at least three tornadoes in the F-2 and F-3 range

touched down in and around Shreveport.

It's no surprise, then, that the Bossier-Caddo area works hard to promote

tornado safety. Each parish school owns an emergency radio to receive severe

weather information, and the civil defense office rotates monthly mailings

among churches, senior citizen centers and mobile home parks to promote

awareness.

Ironically, school students participated in a tornado awareness poster

contest this week.

Posted April 8, 1999


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