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‘It’s horrifying,’ Recent tornado outbreak leaves impression on those with Louisiana ties used to extreme weather

Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 6:01 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Louisiana sees its fair share of natural disasters, and in times of need, people always show up to help. For survivors of the deadly tornado outbreak in the south and midwest, like Warren Bondi, it’s no different.

Bondi is from the New Orleans area. He’s used to extreme weather.

“Tornadoes are terrifying to me because, you know, growing up in the south or in New Orleans, I’m used to hurricanes. We get out of town usually,” he said.

Now living in Nashville, Tennessee, nothing could have prepared him for the terrifying night his family would experience.

“So this is the closet that we actually got into and it’s just downstairs in a normal two-story house,” said Bondi. “Then the lights went out and so we shut the door and that’s when you started hearing it pick up a lot and started rumbling and the house started shaking, and then I heard glass break and I just threw myself and a blanket over the kids and the wife and the dog and started praying at that point.”

His home sustained significant damage. The garage door is gone and parts of the home are caved in or missing. Bondi said he’s thankful things didn’t turn out worse

But for many families across the Heartland, it’s a picture of devastation and loss. Last week’s deadly tornado outbreak claimed the lives of nearly 100 people across five states.

“It’s horrifying,” said Mollie Tinnin, disaster program manager for the Capital Area Red Cross in Louisiana. “It’s not just one house here and there. It’s an entire block, an entire mile where everything is just flattened on the ground and it’s absolutely horrific to see.”

Tinnin is assisting tornado survivors in Mayfield, Kentucky. She said her experience with Hurricane Ida prepared her for this moment.

“I’ve met so many volunteers out here that when I told them that I’m from Louisiana, they talked to me about their experiences deploying for Laura and Ida and coming to help our communities,” she said. “So many of these people drop everything at a moment’s notice to come help us that it feels like a really great way to pay my gratitude forward to come to another community that’s suffering.”

Starting over isn’t easy. The first step is finding a temporary home.

“They’re thinking it’s gonna have be torn down,” said Bondi. “As of right now, we will hopefully be able to move in on the 23rd which will be cutting it a little close, but I promised my kids that we would make sure we’re in a house for Christmas.”

The biggest needs right now are housing and shelters. Basic necessities like food, clothing and toiletries are also needed. You can help Heal the Heartland by donating to disaster relief efforts in Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois and Missouri.

Fox 8 and Gray TV are also teaming up with the Salvation Army, and so far have raised more than $297,000.

Text “HLTORNADO” to 51555 if you’d like to donate to the relief effort. Click here for more.

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