As the sun rose on the Louisiana State University of Alexandria campus Thursday morning, evidence was shown of the severity of last night’s storm.
Around 9:30pm, a tornado struck just on the southern part of campus about 200 yards away from the remaining students at The Oaks Residence Hall.
Just barely 20 minutes before the storm hit, two LSUA officers along with Resident Assistants knocked on all of the residents’ doors to get them evacuated to the first floor.
One of those students, LSUA Freshman Nathaniel Calhoun from Catahoula Parish, said he felt safe with the University police and staff. “I was watching on my phone when the police came by and told us to get in the bathroom. I never really felt scared because I knew I was safe with them,” Nathaniel said.
With all students huddled in the downstairs bathroom, officers then secured the campus to ensure there we no other bystanders.
“Once we heard the tornado coming, we all took cover. It sounded like a sonic boom,” said LSUA Chief of Police Donald Collins. “We are very fortunate though because we suffered no loss of life and all students are accounted for.”
In addition, the LSUA campus suffered no major structural damage. Cleanup will consist primarily of debris including down trees and limbs and, in some areas, minor assets like the LSUA Baseball batting cage.
Not so fortunate is LSU Ag Center which is adjacent to the LSUA campus.
The Ag Center suffered significant destruction. Most of the infrastructure on the east side of Highway 71 is damaged.
According to Tara Smith, the Central Region Director of the Dean Lee Research & Extension Center, the damage will greatly impact the research and extension programs.
“We are going to take it one day at a time. I am optimistic that we can maintain our research footprint here at Dean Lee,” Smith said.
They will be working with other units in the Ag Center community to gain access to equipment to try and continue research operations.
Fortunately for LSUA, all campus operations are continuing via phone and email despite the loss of power. According to University officials, power to some of the campus should be restored later today or tomorrow, at the latest. Those students who live at The Oaks have been taken in by the Hotel Bentley, including complimentary meals for all students.
“We are so very thankful to everyone on our campus who helped keep our students safe during this very dangerous tornado,” said Dr. Paul Coreil, LSUA Chancellor. “We are saddened by the severe damage suffered by our LSU AgCenter Dean Lee Research & Extension Center partners but we are extremely thankful that no one was hurt during the tornado, and we are appreciative of the many LSUA friends and supporters that reached out to help. CLECO was fantastic in their response to getting our campus power restored. This positive community spirit is what makes Central Louisiana such a great place to live and work, especially during a disaster like this.”