By T. Scott Boatright
From tornadoes to COVIDcanes, Lincoln Parish has faced more than its share of storms over the past two years.
Not yet two years after an F3 tornado ripped through parts of Ruston, taking two lives on April 25, 2019, and a little more than six months since Laura was still a Category 1 when she caused widespread damage throughout the parish last August, the National Weather Service and the Lincoln Parish Department of Homeland Security are warning parish residents to be on the lookout and prepare for potential severe weather today.
Warning Coordination Meteorologist Charlie Woodrum of the National Weather Service office in Shreveport said Tuesday afternoon that the Lincoln Parish has a moderate risk of severe weather from this morning through this evening with the potential for tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail to occur during the expected storms.
Ruston was right at the far edge of the moderate risk area when Woodrum spoke Tuesday afternoon with an enhanced risk of tornadoes to the west.
The NWS service says the potential for isolated tornadoes in Lincoln Parish is considered medium while golf ball to tennis ball-sized hail and potential winds of up to 70-80 mph are possible.
“Severe weather is possible through (this) afternoon throughout the area with no significant weather Thursday through Sunday, so after (today’s) round no more significant weather is anticipated,” Woodrum said.
“We think (this) afternoon will bring the largest threat for tornadoes, hail and damaging winds.
Woodrum offered tips in case tornado sirens sound today.
“We want people to know there are less safe places in their houses and places they can go to make them more safe,” Woodrum said. “You don’t want to go to the top floors of your house. You want to go to the lowest floor. You need to stay away from the exterior walls of your home. Often when a tornado hits, its the exterior walls of a home that come down first. You want to move to the losest, most interior part of your home. Often that’s under a stairwell or in a bathroom. You can get inside a bathtub and throw an air mattress or pillows over you.
“Also, having a helmet is a good way to protect yourself as well — a baseball helmet, hockey helmet, construction helmet – whatever that might be is a good thing to have when you’re tornado sheltered to protect your head, because a lot of the fatalities that happen with tornadoes are from traumatic force to the head.”
Woodrum said the NWS believes mobile homes will especially be at risk.
“Any time there are potential tornadoes in the forecast, single-wide and double-wide are threatened and could be destroyed. If we have tornadoes, that’s going to be part of our challenge. If you live in a mobile home, talk to family or friends about going over and stay with them through the storms, because if you wait until a tornado comes out you only have about 10 minutes or less to find a safer place. And sometimes that’s just not enough time.
“The thing is to prepare now and make plans to act in case we do see severe weather. These situations change change quickly, so preparation is key.”