Olla, Louisiana Tornado Damage

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

LaSalle High School    Olla   |    1983 Olla Tornado Holum Community
Copenhagen Community (page 1)

Copenhagen Community (page 2)

 National Weather Service
Official Assessment

Radar Images

A strong storm system marching out of the southern Rockies combined with abundant gulf moisture and vertical wind shear making for a rich environment for tornadoes.  Several tornadoes were spawned from this system from east Texas across Louisiana and into Mississippi during the afternoon and evening hours of November 23.

Thunderstorms began forming over north Louisiana shortly after noon.  One line of storms formed over northern portions of central Louisiana stretching from west to east.  These storms surged northward during the afternoon hours reaching an Interstate 20 line around 3PM.  Meanwhile, a broken line of north/south oriented storms was forming over east Texas moving east.  Isolated supercells began to form ahead of the line prompting tornado warnings over portions of east and northeast Texas.  The primary focus of most supercells appeared to be west of the Toledo Bend Reservoir in east Texas. 

Long tracked supercells were moving northeast ahead of the developing line.  Some of these cells became absorbed within the line causing them to lose supercell characteristics.  The long-tracked supercell that formed over east Texas tracked across Toledo Bend into northern Vernon Parish near Anacoco, northeastward into southern Natchitoches Parish, and into central Winn Parish.  Continuing extreme northwestern LaSalle Parish, the storm produced a tornado a few hundred yards to the southwest of LaSalle Parish High School in the town of Olla.  Using the football field as a guide, the estimated width of the tornado was 400 yards wide.

The school suffered significant roof damage and damage to its football stadium.  A recreation center behind the school also suffered significant damage.  The aluminum light poles at the football stadium were bent halfway up.  The scoreboard, supported by large steel I-beams, were twisted.  A patch of sod on the football field some 25' X 15' was scoured out of the ground to a depth of 4-5"  Official National Weather Service survey assigned the strength of the storm at this point at F2 (113-157 mph).

The storm produced F1-F2 damage over the northern residential section of the town where one 89 year old woman was fatally injured.  Prior to crossing US 165, the storm completely destroyed a home, a produce stand on a concrete foundation, and a mobile home.  This was perhaps the most intense damage witnessed.  The home was constructed on low-standing blocks but was not a pre-fab home.  Only the floor remained on this home.   F3 (158-205 mph) damage occurred here.  The four residents of this home survived by taking shelter in the bathtub.  The tub was dislodged and overturned.  A mattress and couch landed on the tub providing some additional protection.  According to the father the wind nearly pulled his two-year old child from his arms.  Two vehicles were turned 180 degrees and an RV was destroyed.

Departing Olla, the tornado continued northeast on its 15 mile path with the width ranging from 200 to 300 yards wide at primarily F1 intensity.  The storm moved into rural areas of southern Caldwell Parish damaging a few homes and numerous trees.  Trees were either uprooted or snapped some 20 feet up the trunk.  The next major target for the storm was the community of Holum.  The tornado tore a large part of the roof off a well constructed home.  Another home was destroyed by fire caused by tornado damage.  Here the storm was a strong F1 or weak F2 intensity.

Between Holum and the community of Copenhagen, the storm paralleled along Louisiana Highway 849 causing damage to trees and roofs of homes.  Any homes suffering significant damage was primarily the result of fallen trees.  Intensity here ranged from F0-F1 in intensity.  Delta Community College student Dawn Poole and her family's mobile home took a direct strike from the weakening tornado at the end of its 15 mile track.  The storm dislodged her home nearly three feet on one end.  It appeared the tie-down straps prevented the home from moving any further.

Dawn and her family took refuge in their bathtub.  One tree fell in the center of their home causing roof damage and damage to the side of their home.  A second tree took aim on the portion of the home where they sought shelter in the bathtub.  Fortunately the tree fell across a tractor parked near its base preventing it from making contact with their home.  According to Dawn, the storm struck around 8:30 which perfectly corresponds with radar data.  She heard hail striking the home followed immediately by limbs.  She added the storm lasted about a minute.

In summary, the storm appeared to have touched down just southwest of LaSalle High School with an initial width of approximately 400 yards and damage intensity of F2.  It took a continuous path northeast with F3 damage in northern Olla where it crossed US 165.  It continued northeast into southern Caldwell Parish at F0-F1 intensity producing strong F1 (73-112 mph) to possible marginal F2 intensity damage in the community of Holum.  The storm finally weakened before dissipating just northeast of the Copenhagen community.

Photographs of the storm's damage along with radar images can be found at this site by clicking on the links above.  A special thanks to Amber Balch, Delta Science Club president, for her assistance in the storm survey.  Storm intensity estimates in and around Olla are official National Weather Service estimates.  Visit:  http://www.srh.noaa.gov/shv/NOV_23_2004_PNS_Storms.htm for the National Weather Service summary.