Happy New Year? NOT! Tornado does devastating damage to Jackson Parish on Monday

Happy New Year? NOT! Especially if you live in Jackson Parish which got pummeled by a thunderstorm system that spawned one confirmed tornado and another airborne rotation during the evening hours of Monday, January 2nd. Downed trees and flash flooding made roadways impassable all over the parish and widespread power outages were felt. Fortunately, and what can only be deemed as incredible, although one person was said to have been taken to the hospital for observation, no major injuries or deaths were reported despite many residents having their homes damaged. 

Around 5:00pm the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Jackson Parish. Minutes later a large funnel cloud moving toward Jonesboro was captured on film by storm chaser Jaden Pappenheim who downloaded the sighting to Fox Weather. To view the ominous video click here.  

The system moved from the Hwy 505 / Hwy 167 area south of Jonesboro and crossed over Walker Road where it toppled trees, and inflicted damage to a few residences, including basically gutting one trailer and flipping another. From there it traveled to Rome Road and across Hwy 4 leaving a wake of uprooted trees, downed power lines, and overturned travel trailers. The Jackson Parish Recreation Sports Complex also saw a storage building toppled and many trees downed. Several homes along Strain Allen Road, which was unpassable all night due to high water, were the next to be damaged.   

The worst of the devastation was done where Kelly Road intersects Gladway Road between Beech Springs Road and Hwy 4 East. There dozens of houses and structures received extensive damage and for roughly a half-mile wide stretch along Gladway Road, hardly a single tree was left standing in the area that looked like it had been in a warzone. 

“We are blessed to still be here,” said Rick Hutto while surveying the damage done. “Trees fell on two of our vehicles, my porch got lifted up and my shed is destroyed, but thankfully nothing fell on the house. There isn’t even a single shingle out of place. God was with us is all I can say!” 

He was one of the lucky ones. 

Residents all around his location weren’t as fortunate.

Trees made direct hits on several houses, roofs were torn completely off, brick walls caved in and virtually every shed, barn, and outlying structure was leveled by the massively wide system. Hundreds of trees, many with a circumference of two and three feet, were either uprooted or sheared off as far as the eye could see in every direction. 

One whose home experienced extensive damage was Rusty Tolar. 

“The roar got so loud there was no doubt that it was a tornado,” reflected Tolar. “We ran to the bathroom, got in the tub, and just a second later it hit. Every window in the house got sucked out and doors got blown off the hinges. Thank God that we are physically fine but will remember this for a long time.”

A look around showed even more devastation. A pontoon boat was upside down, another boat lay on its side and his workshop was in disarray with the roof ripped off. Hardly a single tree on the property remained unscathed.

“There used to be an outside kitchen area here,” Tolar indicated to an area directly adjoining the back of his house. ” I can’t even find anything of it. All gone.”

The torrential rain that accompanied the system, measured in some areas to be as much as five inches, flooded roadways as far south as Hwy 505 in the southern portion of the parish, and both Bear Creek Road and Bear Knoll Drive in Quitman. Damage from the downpour was also felt in Jonesboro, the worst being at Brookshire’s Grocery where water poured in from behind the store, completely flooding the interior. Cedar and Talbot Street also had to be closed for some time due to water going over bridges.  

The far eastern portion of Jackson Parish also felt the weather event’s wrath. About an hour after the first devasting system left its path of destruction another powerful line of thunderstorms knocked power out all around the Chatham area. A tornadic rotation was indicated by Doppler Radar as going over the Walker community and Mt. Moriah area before moving off toward Eros. 

“We have no power anywhere,” said Chatham Mayor Gregory Harris late Monday night. “Fortunately it doesn’t look like any damage has been done but we are completely in the dark.”

Entergy estimated that over 2,500 lost power in Jackson Parish.

Images from New Year Holiday Tornado


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