Residents at ground zero of tornado recall terrifying moments

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 27, 2011 at 5:16 PM

Updated Saturday, May 28 at 11:44 AM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

BUSH, La. – Neighbors in northern St. Tammany spent the day digging out from a powerful tornado that touched down Thursday near the small town of Bush.

The Five Lakes campground was ground zero for the tornado. More than a dozen campers and trailers here along with a few tin-roof homes were reduced to rubble in a matter of seconds.

The tornado cut a five to six mile path of destruction through the northern part of St. Tammany Parish. The Five Lakes campground off of Highway 40 in Bush got smacked twice by the twister around 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

Mike Mock and Diane Allen heard the storm coming, ran out of their trailer and hunkered down behind a nearby tree.

“It sounded like maybe ten freight trains all together, fixing to run over your head, standing right in front of you, just fixing to run over you,” Mock said.

The couple watched the tornado destroy their camper – along with about a dozen other homes in the campground.

“Tin started shooting by us and just whole sheets were shooting by and we just stayed as low as we could, get my back to that tree,” Mock said. Allen pointed to a piece of their roof wrapped around the top of a tree.

Ruth Griffin’s home down the road is also a total loss. Her daughter called to warn her that there was a tornado coming, and she quickly moved to the bathroom in the middle of the home.

“The house was just going back and forth. It was trying to come off of the foundation,” Griffin said. “I thought it was going to go any minute. There was nothing I could do except try to save my grandson and my husband.”

Griffin said her house may be gone, but her family is fine.

“All this can be replaced. It’s just a matter of life,” Griffin said. “As long as they’re OK, we’re OK. We’re going to do what we can and rebuild.”

St. Tammany President Kevin Davis said the tornado destroyed or severely damaged about 20 homes in the parish and five people went to the hospital with minor injuries.

“All of the assessment teams are out. The Red Cross is here as well. They’ve been here last night. We actually put two families in hotels. Others were able to stay with family and friends,” Davis said.

Davis said it could be Tuesday before parish crews remove all of the debris left in the wake of the tornado.

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