“The freight train woke me up at 3 o’clock,” Pastor Jay Adkins said. “I ran outside and saw the back end of that tornado plowing through Westwego. The path it left was narrow, but the destruction was total.”
Jay awakened his minister of youth Brian Sholle and they began searching through the dark neighborhood–the power was out although fires were springing up in the tornado’s wake–for anyone they could help.
“We ran into the police chief,” Jay said, “and he remembered me from Katrina when we were so involved in disaster relief work. He said, ‘I need your help, reverend.’ He had about 50 people, many of them women with babies, he had to take care of. He said, ‘I need diapers and formula.'”
Jay and Brian caught the manager of the local Winn-Dixie just as he was opening up. He emptied the shelves of those products and loaded them down, and they rushed back to help the victims.
Apparently there were three tornadoes in our immediate area last night, this one in Westwego which crossed the river into the Carrollton section of New Orleans, causing a lot of damage there, another in the Franklin Avenue/Pontchartrain Park section of Gentilly, and a third one somewhere. The Westwego twister took the top off a motel alongside the West Bank Expressway, which gave a hundred guests the surprise of their lives when rain started pouring in on their beds. Police shut down that section of the expressway all day, and closed much of the town of Westwego.
Only one person was killed. Stella Chambers was in her 80s and had survived Katrina. She was living in a FEMA trailer and excited that her flooded home had been restored and she was close to moving back in. The tornado picked up both her trailer and the two story house and spun them through the air. She died soon after the trailer dropped to the ground with her inside.
Jay Adkins had to get to his seminary classes this morning and was there when I caught him by cell phone. Later he called to say he was back in Westwego and doing what he could to help people. “The governor landed in her big helicopter,” he said. “It was sickening to see all the dignitaries rushing to squeeze into a photo with her when the Red Cross was over there knocking themselves out.”
When I arrived at our associational offices this (Tuesday) morning, Ninfa and Lynn announced that our power was out. To their great chagrin, they had to take the rest of the day off and go home. I know it broke their hearts.