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Residents survey damage after a tornado destroyed several homes on Saturday, April 10, 2021, in Palmetto, Louisiana.

Weather researchers from Norman, Oklahoma on Monday were employing drones to comb the St. Landry Parish area near the site of a Saturday tornado that claimed a life and destroyed or damaged at least 16 homes.

Meanwhile, occupants of most of the residences had found shelter, at least temporarily, by Monday. Housing was being sought for one resident, an elderly man, whose home was destroyed, Van Reed, director of the St. Landry Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said.

In addition to the damage to homes, a portion of a nearby levee and a nearby convenience store also sustained damage from the tornado, Reed said. The U.S. Corps of Engineers was expected to travel to St. Landry to make inspections on the levee.

And an owl, apparently injured in the storm, was recovered in the affected area and treated locally. Reed said he found the bird near a home where he had stopped to check for injured residents. The owl had about a 50 percent chance of surviving after treatment, said Letitia Labbie of the Acadiana Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation Inc., who retrieved and treated the bird Saturday.

Roger Erickson, National Weather Service in Lake Charles, said researchers connected to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Oklahoma were studying vegetation to better determine the tornado’s path.

“It was a bad storm. The good news is the research side of the investigation. They are going over fields, wooded areas, trying to determine how wide the storm was and in which directions it moved,” Erickson said.

He said research results, if helpful, may eventually filter back to the forecasters in the field to help predict or warn about storms. The tornado was a typical one for this time of year, he said; March, April and May are busy tornado months. Tornados from the same system that spun through St. Landry from the west also headed east toward Florida and northeast toward Arkansas.

The tornado touched down at 2:06 a.m. Saturday on Bolden Road in St. Landry Parish, destroying several homes. The NWS report said in a report on social media:

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“One single wide mobile home that was tied down rolled numerous times for over 320 yards. One man died in this home. A double wide mobile home next door rolled for over 100 yards. Two people were seriously injured. A third home on pilings slid over 50 yards, with 5 people inside, who received cuts and bruises.”

In addition to the lone fatality, two people were transported to hospitals outside of St. Landry Parish, Reed said. Both victims were stable Monday.

In addition, trees were felled, powerlines snapped, and some barns and outbuildings were destroyed by the tornado, which was rated as an EF-3, with winds of 140 mph. The length of the storm path was 8.7 miles, the tornado’s width was about 200 yards.

Erickson said warning was issued by the NWS at 1:42 a.m., a heads-up that sounded on people’s phones and expired at 2:15. He said neighbors in the affected area reported hearing the warnings. A second warning was issued at 2:11 a.m. and lasted well beyond the tornado’s time on the ground, which ended at 2:18 a.m.

Reed, who was still sifting through ruins in the rural area Monday, said four homes were destroyed, three had major damages and three had minor damages. He said three mobile homes were destroyed; three had major damages. But those totals may increase, he said.

One donkey was killed in the storm and was buried Saturday. One goat was killed, trapped under a house. Some cattle may have died, he said.

Labbie said she operates the Acadiana Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation from her two-bedroom home on 5 acres in the Youngsville area. She funds the operation herself with occasional donations and keeps as many as two dozens birds of prey at a time for rehabilitation, as well as other animals. She said she has overseen the rescue and rehab operation for more than 40 years.


Email Ken Stickney at kstickney@theadvocate.com.