John Bel Edwards is very new in the governor’s office, but he’s been introduced to one of the worst aspects of the job now. He was called from the State Capitol for a natural disaster that claimed the lives of two people in St. James Parish.
The search goes on at the worst-hit site, the Sugar Hill trailer park where a tornado wreaked havoc. “I will be honest with you: It’s a minor miracle there were only two fatalities,” Edwards said after visiting the site. “These travel trailers were picked up and blown apart.”
The injury total is also high, at least 40 treated and some taken to hospitals with serious injuries, reported St. James Sheriff Willy Martin.
The storm system that spawned the deadly tornado also caused a good bit of damage across southeastern Louisiana, including major damage to businesses, homes or vehicles in several parishes. Fortunately, the loss of life appears to have been limited to Convent, but that is small comfort to those who have lost loved ones or their homes and possessions to this act of God.
The governor praised first-responders at Convent and elsewhere as he issued an emergency proclamation for seven parishes affected by the storm. He asked for prayers for the victims, as well, adding: “We will do all that we can to help restore the families, businesses and communities destroyed by this tragedy.”
That is important and obviously necessary in the areas hardest hit. Others should count themselves fortunate today.
But we also note that the storm damage could have been high, and more lives lost, but for the decisions of state and local officials ahead of time to prepare for the worst. In many areas, there was only a bit of rain, although sometimes heavier than a typical thunderstorm — but who could predict where that could be?
It’s a major inconvenience to shutter businesses and call off school, particularly the latter disrupting the schedules for thousands of families. Given the virulence of the storm coming, and the uncertainty about where it would have the worst impact, we think that school officials in particular were correct in their decisions to not risk a tornado or heavy winds in a school parking lot on Tuesday afternoon.
“Better safe than sorry” is the old saying, but it is human nature to second-guess these kinds of judgment calls after the fact.
We believe that the decisions made in advance of this storm system were the correct ones.