Damaging winds strike Miss-Lou
Published 1:16 am Friday, March 18, 2016
By Cain Madden, Megan Fink & Vershal Hogan
NATCHEZ — In the back of the Rivergate Bowling Lanes, Sam Hoggatt said he couldn’t hear a thing because of the buzz of all of the machines around him Thursday afternoon. But then all of a sudden Hoggatt said he saw the roof shaking and the room started to vibrate like an earthquake.
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Scenes such as this were reported along the U.S. 84 corridor Thursday.
Residents wondered if a tornado had touched down in the area a little after 3:30 p.m. Thursday, but Adams County Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford said the county did not experience a tornado.
“We had a severe thunderstorm with damaging winds and hail but no tornadic activity,” he said. “It was a fast-moving cell that charged through north and central Adams County.”
Out in the front of the bowling alley, customers and employees could hear the sound quite well. Debbie Fleming said the roof coming off the building sounded like a canon blast and bowlers on six lanes instinctively ran to hide under the counter, fearing a tornado was overhead.
“It was rocking and rolling in here,” said Debbie’s husband, John Fleming, who was there to pick her up. “It shook the whole building.”
Two sections of the roof roughly the size of a small car were hurled into the adjacent bayou on the right side of the bowling alley. Though only a small section of the interior of the building was open to the elements.
Lee Hash, the bowling alley’s general manager, said he had no idea how much the repairs to the building would end up costing.
“It’s going to be a lot worse if we can’t cover up those lanes,” he said, as employees were working to get plastic sheeting down on top of the wood lanes and scrambling to get computers on the side of the building not impacted.
“The roof panels are going to have to be replaced,” Hash said. “I hope we can keep the leaks off of the scoring machines.”
On the Louisiana side of the river, Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies reported seeing a tornado near the parish courthouse, said Homeland Security Director Payne Scott, but the National Weather Service in Jackson has not verified that what deputies reported will be ruled an official tornado.
“It came through, bouncing around and going up and down,” Scott said the deputies told him. “There has been damage to some of the outside buildings around (the courthouse).”
Jackson National Weather Service meteorologist Joanne Culin said wind damage and hail in the area had been reported, but the service has not been able to confirm a tornado.
Scott has heard reports of damage to buildings in Ferriday and Ridgecrest. In Vidalia, downed trees and power lines have been reported across Concordia Parish.
Reports have come in from across the parish of roofs peeled up and cars having been damaged by falling trees and limbs, Scott said.
“It’s hard to say if that was the tornado deputies saw or if it was straight-line winds,” he said. “Tornadoes can dip and pull up.”
More than 2,000 customers in the parish were without power at its height around 5 p.m., Scott said. As of 9:45, he said work was still being done to restore power in the Ridgecrest and Airport Road areas.
In addition to the bowling alley, wind damage has been reported in Natchez, with damage to buildings on Main Street.
Entergy Customer Service Manager Tim Runnels said approximately 2,500 Entergy customers in Adams County were also without power at the height of the storm. As of 10 p.m., approximately 1,800 customers were without power and likely would be until today, he said.
Runnells said Entergy was bringing in workers from other areas to assist.
“This has been a tough storm for Natchez,” he said.