Storm system spawns tornadoes, flooding

PETER SILAS PASQUA news@postsouth.com
A horse pasture adjacent to Pecan Place Road is covered with flood waters Wednesday midday after a slow-moving storm front moved through the area last week. The storm spurred tornadoes and flooding. 
POST SOUTH PHOTO/Peter Silas Pasqua

PLAQUEMINE - A gloomy, slow-paced storm front moved through southern Louisiana last week leaving behind tornadoes, flooded streets and yards and bulging rivers and bayous.

The system resulted in Gov. Bobby Jindal declaring a statewide state of emergency Thursday.

As the front began moving east early Thursday, parts of the area were put under a tornado watch for nearly six hours. The system possibly spawned three tornadoes in Plaquemine, Breaux Bridge and Franklinton.

A security camera caught terrifying moments of what looked like a tornado at a chemical plant near Ella Road in Plaquemine. It happened at SNF FLOPAM and left workers fearing for their lives.

What appears to be a tornado can be seen making its way through the plant. The storm ripped off paneling on one building and caused an office to cave in.

"The plant held up really well," said plant manager Paul West. "We were really fortunate no one was injured and there were no chemical releases or major damage."

Workers said the tornado passed through in what they estimated to be less than five seconds. They added it was about 50 yards wide.

"The door flew open and then from there, everything started flying out the building," added shift supervisor Mitchell Davis. "Ceiling tiles were coming down and it sounded like a train outside."

It has not officially been confirmed the damage was caused by a tornado.

Elsewhere, the storm caused high water and flooding in Plaquemine, St. Gabriel and Bayou Sorrel.

St. Gabriel Mayor Lionel Johnson said the city is working to clean out culverts and widen canals to try to keep flooding from happening again in the Sunshine community. He estimates waters reached nearly three feet.

Also on the east bank, water from the continuously monitored Bayou Manchac adjacent to the parish line nearly reached Alligator Bayou Road.

Continual rainfall wreaked havoc on residents of Bayou Pigeon and Bayou Sorrel as many are dealt with rising water and flooding of property and homes.

And in Plaquemine, David Battiste also experienced flooding, although he believes the impact could have been less if government officials simply cleared debris.

"We got a blockage back here," Battiste said. "I used to take my tiller and knock it down for the water to drain but they called the sheriff on me for trespassing so I don't go over there anymore."

Battiste said when it "rains like this," water piles up in his yard and during the summer, you can see snakes and mosquitoes "like crazy out here."

Battiste lives on Pecan Place Road that is adjacent to an open horse pasture rented by equine enthusiasts. The owner of the property resides outside of the parish and Battiste said other neighbors are complaining as well.

"We need some help here," Battiste said. "I have been here since '94 and it has been doing this ever since except when I got back there and broke it up.

"They threatened to have me arrested so I quit doing it. I was just trying to help out. You should see the snakes swimming across there catching the little frogs."

Battiste said the remedy for flooding in the area is simple.

"That can be fixed," Battiste said. "All they have to do is knock a hole where all that trash is back there so that water can get out of here."

Correspondent Pam Boesch contributed to this report.