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Tornado recovery begins in La. town

A tornado Saturday sent this piece of a tree smashing into the home of 21-year-old Jalisa Granger, who died protecting her 15-month-old son in Rayne, La.

Associated Press

A tornado Saturday sent this piece of a tree smashing into the home of 21-year-old Jalisa Granger, who died protecting her 15-month-old son in Rayne, La.

RAYNE, La. — As the storm roared over Pauline Patton's apartment, she peered out the window and saw something she wasn't ready for: A funnel cloud. Suddenly, the power went out. Rainwater poured through the ceiling. And as everything went black, she heard what sounded like a bomb exploding overhead.

Still, residents said Sunday that the tornado that killed a woman the day before and displaced hundreds could have been much worse. Many have turned their attention to taking care of pets and retrieving essentials left behind while evacuating.

Patton, 64, and her husband, Howard, were having lunch Sunday at a fire station-turned-shelter, courtesy of the Red Cross. They weren't sure when — or if — they'd be able to return to their apartment. About two dozen people were also at the shelter, with nowhere else to go. "It just happened so fast," she said. "You couldn't hardly see nothing. Everything was dark."

Many of the 1,500 residents were being allowed to return to their homes in this community about 70 miles west of Baton Rouge, said Rayne police Chief Carroll Stelly. However, about 100 damaged homes were still barricaded off. Forty were uninhabitable and 60 hadn't been inspected yet, Stelly said.

Some 150 homes had been damaged or destroyed as winds topped out at 135 mph, leaving at least 12 with injuries that were not life-threatening.

On Sunday, a cat curled in the sun on top of the demolished home where 21-year-old Jalisa Granger was killed. Granger had been protecting her 15-month-old son, Tyrek, when part of an oak tree crashed onto the home. Her mother and brother were also inside, her cousin said. An uncle had to cut a hole in the wreckage to pull out the three survivors, said Granger's cousin, 35-year-old Donita Wilridge.

"My aunt said that within 30 seconds it was over," Wilridge said.

Granger's son is too young to understand what happened, but is missing his mother, who was studying nursing at LSU at Eunice. "He just keeps hollering for her," Wilridge said.

The hardest hit-area in Rayne — which bills itself as the Frog Capital of the World because of its annual frog festival — is composed mostly of low- to moderate-income homes.

"My heart goes out to the residents because a lot of them don't have any insurance," said Maxine Trahan, a spokeswoman for the Acadia Parish Sheriff's Office. "So where do they begin?"

Tornado recovery begins in La. town 03/06/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 6, 2011 10:07pm]
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