Motorists can report emergencies or hazardous road conditions to the local police or Louisiana State Police by dialing *LSP (*577) from a cellular phone, or click here for road closure information. More >>
Motorists can report emergencies or hazardous road conditions to the local police or Louisiana State Police by dialing *LSP (*577) from a cellular phone or click here for road closure information. More >>
Click here on how to get flood insurance for your home or business.More >>
MANSFIELD, LA (KSLA) -
A warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service confirmed that an EF-1 tornado touched down at the International Paper Company in Mansfield near the Red River Parish line on Tuesday afternoon.
Bill Parker, who originally thought the tornado was an EF-0, said the tornado had wind speeds of 85 to 95 mph. He said the spin up happened very quickly.
"I would have to go back to the office and talk to the meteorologist that were working to understand what they were looking at the time," he said. "But no, we didn't have a warning out for this storm."
It happened around 2:19 p.m. at the plant in the 1200 block of Louisiana Highway 509. There was no warning in effect for that area at the time the damaging winds came through. Employees reported the tornado dropped out of the sky without warning, damaging several vehicles parked at the facility, which manufactures container board for the the production of boxes.
While the storm was brief, StormTracker 12 Chief Meteorologist Jeff Castle says radar captured indications of a possible brief spin-up over the plant. A full assessment of conditions at the plant is in progress and there was no work stoppage, according to IP officials.
The DeSoto Parish Sheriff's Office and the Office of Emergency Preparedness confirms the event damaged some vehicles at the plant. There were no reported injuries.
Employee Jessie Wooten was inside a mobile home office at the time of the tornado.
"It was on top of us before I even realized what was going on," Wooten said, adding one of his co-workers spotted it first and yelled for everyone to run.
"I looked up and the funnel cloud was right here," he explained.
In cases of severe weather, emergency protocol at the mill requires all employees to get to designated sturdy buildings. According to Wooten, the only thing on his mind was to run to that building.
"As big as I am, I can't run that fast, but trust me, I ran as fast as I could," Wooten said. "The guys behind me said, 'Don't stop now.'"
Employees described the chaos lasting about two minutes, but in that short time, the wind was able to do a lot of damage. Trees and branches could be seen all over the parking lot, a car had been turned onto its side. Metal sheeting collapsed, and several vehicles were damaged.
The DeSoto Parish Sheriff's Office responded to the scene and helped the employees make vehicle damage claims. Employees could be seen helping each other out, sharing duct tape and plastic bags to patch up blown out windows.
Mill manager Kevin Driscoll says most of the damage was minor and he's grateful nobody was hurt.
According to Driscoll, they will be doing a thorough damage assessment Wednesday, and will come up with a detail repair plan.
The financial damage to the mill has not yet been calculated.
Anyone with any reportable damage is urged to contact the sheriff's office at (318) 872-3956.