Tornado rips through Vernon Parish

Leesville Daily Leader

Multiple homes were damaged by the EF-1 tornado, along with leaving a trail of fallen trees and other affected property.

However, despite all the destruction, just one person suffered a minor injury in the wake of the storm that hit multiple areas, including Vernon Lake Road, West Hawthorne Road, Industrial Park Road and Country Club Road.

Charlotte Hooks – the Hornbeck High School Vice Principal – and her family were at home riding out the storm when her husband, Bobby, let them know they were in danger.

"It came out of nowhere," she said. "We knew bad weather was coming, and we were in seperate parts of the house. My husband heard some things hitting the side of the house and looked outside. He screamed at us to get in the hall. We got in the hall and huddled down. It was probably the scariest three or four minutes of our lives as you feel your house crumble around you."

The Hooks family hunkered down in place while falling trees damaged their home.

"My husband said it sounded like a roaring train, but to me, personally, there was a pressure and my ears were not adjusting," she said. "It sounded like little bombs going off. I don't know if it was the treetops breaking or the roots uplifting. It was so bad that when it was all done, my youngest daughter said 'Mom, it's raining in our house.' I said 'no, it's just raining really hard outside.' We opened up her door and it was pouring inside the house. It was just crazy."

Despite her home being ravaged by the tornado and multiple vehicles pinned down under the weight of their fallen garage, Hooks understands how lucky their family is.

"Sadness is not in my vocabulary right now," she said. "I am so blessed and overwhelmed that God has His hand in protecting our family. I'm extremely blessed to live in the community that we live in. Everyone from the City of DeRidder to the Town of Hornbeck and everyone in between came out in droves to see what they could do to help."

It did not take long for the Hooks family to see local support from neighbors trying to help.

"The most amazing thing was that when it lightened up, I followed my husband outside, and the men in our little area here all met to make sure families were safe," Hooks said. "The minute they confirmed everyone was safe, we went back and started surveying damage. The outpouring of support from the community has been so incredible. God has His hands on us."

Leesville Mayor Rick Allen has been fielding calls from concerned citizens to see how they can help the recovery efforts across Vernon Parish.

"I've had all the pastors from the churches reach out and ask if there was anybody with a specific need for food, ice, ice chests because there are a lot of people without power," he said. "When you have community strength like that, it's pretty impressive."

The damage is extensive across the area with crews working to remove debris and fixing power lines, and Allen is encouraging non-essential personnel to stay away. 

"The main thing we are trying to do is keep people away from those areas," Allen said. "People just want to see the damage and rubberneck. It's dangerous in those areas when the crews are out there gathering up power lines, and you don't know what is live and what is dead. We really need to make sure we keep the spectators out of those areas."