Tornado tears through Tensas Parish

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, April 6, 2011

ST. JOSEPH — An F2 tornado struck Tensas Parish Monday afternoon leaving many parish residents without power or water.

Tensas Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Rick Foster said the tornado hit in the southwest portion of the parish at Cooter Point just before 4 p.m. before moving northeast through the parish and into Claiborne County.

Foster said the tornado caused moderate to severe damage to approximately 50 houses and camps, destroying eight of them.

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He estimated the storm caused approximately $2 million in damage to the Tensas Water Distribution Association’s water treatment facility in St. Joseph.

Foster said residents who use Tensas Water Distribution Association services are currently under a boil advisory, but the National Guard is supplying water tanks for those affected.

Foster also said since the towns of St. Joseph and Newellton have their own water service, they are unaffected and will be helping provide water to those that are without water.

Tensas Water Distribution Association produces water for 5,391 people, including the Town of Waterproof.

Foster said the $2 million in damage to the facility is currently just an estimate, and it will take further investigation to determine the actual damage.

“(The tornado) just tore the roof down and wrapped around the structure inside,” he said. “We are having to get all the equipment checked out at the plant to see what is functional and what is not before we know how bad it really was. Hopefully the infrastructure of the plant is fine.”

Foster said depending on the damage, it could take days or weeks to get the plant back up and running.

In addition to the loss of water, Foster said a large portion of the parish has been without power due to the tornado.

“We had over 100 power poles down and a number of trees scattered all over the roads,” he said.

Foster said Entergy crews have been working to restore power to residents.

“Entergy told us that by noon (today) we should have the majority of the power back on,” he said. “But I think they may be a little too optimistic.”

Tractors, 18-wheelers and mobile homes were also flipped over throughout the parish, Foster said.

In his 20 years of serving as director of emergency preparedness, Foster said he has never had a tornado do as much damage as the one on Monday.

“I have seen tornadoes that were bigger and faster, but none of them have hit in this magnitude,” he said. “This one just hit in a more populated area and caused a lot of damage.”

Foster said that while the tornado was damaging, there were no reported injuries and no one had to be relocated to a shelter.

“Most people who needed a place to stay went with their family,” he said. “A lot of the homes that were damaged are second homes or camps, so it didn’t put people out of a home.”