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Storm rips through Reserve

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / March 12, 1998

RESERVE – A “downburst” is what officials are calling the freakishweather which ripped through the Airline Highway section of ReserveSaturday night.

The winds snatched the roof from a double-wide house trailer on GoshenLane, north of Airline, and also from Louisiana Machinery at West 10thStreet and Airline. Damage was also sustained at Data-Chem across thestreet from Louisiana Machinery.

“Weather bureau people are calling it a ‘downburst’,” pointed out KathyGilmore of the St. John Parish Department of Civil Defense, who addedsuch winds could reach 100 mph.

Jeannine Harrilal was at home at 195 Goshen Lane when the storm’s furyhit. She was at home with her husband, Wayne, their five children and thethree children of his brother, Glenn, and his wife, Janelle, who lived nextdoor at 199 Goshen while building a house in LaPlace.They had rented some videos, fried some chicken and were trying to relaxand keep calm.

Glenn Jr., 12, decided to go to the trailer to retrieve some clothes whenthe “downburst” struck. First, said Harrilal, came the lightning, thunderand hail. She just finished lighting some candles when the power went out.

All at once, a WRRRRRR! sound came to their ears and she shoved all thechildren into a hallway closet. “Our ears were popping and it sounded likea train coming.”

Inside the trailer, Glenn Jr. heard the popping of rivets and the wrenchingof the roof being torn off by the high winds. Later, bits and pieces of thetrailer’s roof were found shredded and scattered as far away as ReserveChristian School.

“It was not even 10 minutes, then it was gone,” Harrilal added.

The couple dashed out to check on Glenn Jr. when, she said, “he cameflying toward us.”

She told him the roof was torn off the trailer where he had been and hewas surprised, even though he had dashed through much of the debrismoments before.

A hole was also found in the garage roof where Glenn Sr. maintained his$20,000 racing car. His first thoughts, Harrilal said later, were to ask ifhis family was all right. Then, it was “my car!”No one was injured in the storm, and the car was undamaged. “It was anadventure!” she said later.

Nearby, a party barge had been flipped from the wind, willow treebranches were snapped off and the Sunday School building of CalvaryBaptist Church was shifted over 4 feet. Telephone poles were snapped andsheared by the winds.

Entergy work crews were on the scene and had new poles installed andpower restored in no time, Harrilal continued. Even the video storeallowed them to keep the videos an extra night for free.John Adams, customer service manager for Entergy, reported 1,500customers were without power at the peak of the storm, 1,200 of those onone circuit. “That was pretty good, considering the weather,” he said.

Extra crews from Lockport and Labadieville were brought in and nearlyevery local customer was back on line by Sunday at 7 a.m. A few BlindRiver camps were without power as of Monday morning.”It could’ve been a lot worse,” Adams said, adding most of the outagecame from the snapping of six primary poles.

Gilmore said 4.25 inches of rain was recorded in LaPlace between noonFriday and midnight Saturday. She knew of no wind-speed measurementsfrom that night.

“Everything went well,” Gilmore concluded. “Nobody was hurt.”

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