Palmetto, LA - At 1:22 a.m., the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for portions of St. Landry Parish, including Palmetto. Less than an hour later, devastation as what is suspected to have been an EF3 tornado with winds between 130-140 mph ripped through Bolden Road near Highway 71.
"Upon arrival, deputies found what you see behind us and all around us. There was seven victims that were transported to the hospital and there was one confirmed fatality outside of those seven," said St. Landry Parish President Jessie Bellard.
The victim was 28-year-old Jose Antonio Higareda who was thrown from his mobile home after strong winds lifted it off its foundation. He died on the way to the hospital.
Bellard says he’s never seen anything quite like this. "I’ve been in public service all my adult life, fire and police. Until you come and see this, you have to see it to believe it, honestly. It’s not something that you normally would see on any situation."
Based on the amount of catastrophic damage caused, Roger Erickson with the National Weather Service says it was likely a strong EF3 tornado.
"Seeing things like houses picked up, thrown for hundreds of yards out into the fields. And these were houses that were tied down. These are the kinds of things that can cause these really high wind speeds to do this to them," Erickson said.
With hurricane season in just a couple of months Bellard emphasises the importance of listening to local weather alerts. "The people have to just listen and understand what’s being told to them is serious. People need to adhere to the information that’s given to you and try to do the best they can."
Jesse Bellard says crews are first focused on restoring power to the residents in the area before beginning the cleaning process.