St. James residents deal with damage left behind after tornado hits

LUTCHER, LA (WVUE) - A number of St. James Parish residents are cleaning up, after a tornado hit the Lutcher area, early Saturday morning.

"I was in such shock. I never thought anything like this whatever happened to me," said 14-year-old Kali Ramirez. "Words can't really describe how it was. It was just very, very devastating. Not something anyone would ever want to experience."

Just before 5:30 a.m., Ramirez says she was in a dead sleep when the seemingly impossible happened. It was raining in her bedroom.

"I looked up and there was a hole in my roof and just water coming out," said Ramirez.

Her St. James family home was hit head-on by a tornado. The 14-year-old says it only lasted a few moments, but it felt like hours.

"It sounded like a freight train just come in straight into my window. I was scared the whole time," she said.

St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin says the home was one of 50-60 damaged in the EF-1 tornado, which carried winds of about 90-miles-per-hour.

"You have a lot of rooftop damage, a lot of yard debris, trees uprooted, broken. Garages totally destroyed," said Sheriff Martin.

He adds that the worst of the damage happened off of Highway 642, including the home right across the street from Ramirez's.

"There were two young children in the home and the house just disintegrated around them and so, they were caught in that. Bruises, you know, nothing serious. It was shaken up. Lucky to be alive. Very fortunate," said Sheriff Martin.

Ray Kleibert's lives just a few houses down from Ramirez and her family. He says he and his family didn't even have time to seek shelter.

"We heard this horrific sound, very high velocity wins and, I went to grab coffee. My wife came out of the bedroom and was gasping like, 'what do we do, what do we do?'" explained Kleibert.

Now, he and others are offering support to those who weren't as fortunate.

"It's been pretty trying on the community but they rallied together and they do a great job pulling everybody through," Sheriff Martin said.

While Ramirez and others have a lot of work ahead of them, Kali says she's just happy to be alive.

"I'm safe and I'm here right now. Every material thing can be replaced," said Ramirez.

Sheriff Martin says this is the third year in a row in which a tornado has hit St. James Parish at this time of year. Yet, he also says it's the first time in three years there were no fatalities.

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