NWS confirms multiple tornadoes touched down in SW La.

Published 4:59 pm Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Tornadoes ripped through Calcasieu Parish and traveled east to join forces with another storm system Monday afternoon. The next morning, an ATF officer pulled off Cities Service into the Sulphur Walmart parking lot to survey the flattened pancake of the The Murphy USA gas station. The 25-foot iron post and sign was broken off at the ground. An I-beam from the station was picked up by the twister, twisted and re-erected in an arch about 150 yards from the station. The Walmart sign was folded. The shopping center across the street lost its roof and a construction crew was at work Tuesday morning making repairs. At least one car was overturned by the winds in Sulphur. The driver was uninjured.

“I was on the bridge when it hit the hardest,” she said. She saw the 18-wheeler that flipped on the Calcasieu River Interstate 10 bridge. Relating her story made her tear up, the feelings of reliving it and living through it. She is from Michigan and rode out Hurricane Laura in Lake Charles.

“I’m beginning to think putting up with a little snow isn’t so bad,” she said, as she snapped a few photos to send to her family in Michigan.

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What “hit” when she was on the bridge was at least one, possibly two tornadoes that moved through Sulphur, across Westlake and into Lake Charles, according to Andrew Tingler, National Weather Service.

A National Weather Service report said the tornado that touched down in Westlake was an EF-1.

Marilyn Broussard lives almost at the corner of U.S.. 90 and Picard Road in Sulphur. She had just gotten a call from her brother in Orange, Texas, to let her know she was about to get some weather.

“My husband is in a wheelchair,” she said. “As soon as I got off the phone, I wheeled him into a room located in the middle of the house without windows.

“I always pray a storm prayer,” she said, showing the words of the prayer on her phone. “We went through the prayer 10 times.”

She said she heard the winds snap the large oak in her front yard. Her fence was damaged. Broussard is not only a woman of faith, but also a woman of action. She called her tree guy who had the tree cut up and the debris stacked by 9 a.m. “You keep going on, that’s what you do,” she said.

On the west and east of the Calcasieu River, first responders went to work during the event, responding to calls as they came in. Once conditions were safe in Lake Charles, Sulphur and Westlake, public works and drainage crews were dispatched to assess damage and begin clearing trees and other debris from roadways. Water and wastewater crews worked through the event. City of Lake Charles Transit personnel ensured that about 20 passengers who were at the Transit Center at the time of the storm were safely returned home after the storm passed through.

In Lake Charles, the public works traffic and communications division were dispatched to begin assessing damage to traffic signals and traffic signage and to begin the repair process.

“We are so thankful for the advanced warnings received from the U.S. National Weather Service Lake Charles and our local meteorologists,” said Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter. “The storm packed a powerful punch, but thanks to their alerts, people were able to heed their advice and take the necessary steps to protect their families.”

Hunter also expressed his thanks to city personnel, some of whom worked late into the night and started before 7 a.m. the next morning.

“We will continue these clean-up efforts in the days ahead and will continue monitoring the updates from the National Weather Service as they release final reports on this storm.”

No injuries or deaths were reported.

The storm system moved east from Calcasieu Parish and converged with a second storm system. Gov. Jeff Landry described in a special report on the weather’s impact  as a “dangerous and deadly” situation. The state’s warning system was in place and Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Ralph Abraham announced two fatalities in West Baton Rouge and one in St. Martin Parish.

Jaques Thibodeaux, Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said the first tornado began at 4:23 in Calcasieu Parish and the system moved east and did not end until 9 p.m. in St. John Parish. Sixteen parishes were impacted.