AMITE, LA (WAFB) - The cleanup is underway in Tangipahoa Parish after a tornado damaged between 15 and 20 homes, but despite the damage, residents are in high spirits and thankful that no one was injured.
Instead of getting ready for Santa, many people in Amite spent Christmas Eve picking up the pieces after a tornado ripped through the area. However, that was the reality Wednesday for people on Leander Lane. Investigators with the National Weather Service examined the debris left behind and rated the tornado as an EF-2 with winds of 115 mph. They added it traveled about 4.5 miles.
"It's a tragic event," said CJ Purdue.
Investigators reported the tornado touched down south of LA 16 just east of Amite and moved northeast. They said it lifted before reaching Pine Drive. In addition to the damage to home, the storm knocked down trees and power lines. According to Entergy, about 200 customers are still without power.
Residents said they are very thankful because it could have been worse. Dozens of volunteers showed up early Wednesday morning to help their neighbors and friends with the cleanup. Chief Bruce Cutrer with the Amite Fire Department was one of those receiving assistance.
"I was overwhelmed to begin with," Cutrer said. "I actually broke down at the beginning and my fire department and officers and personnel there were such great support. They took the bull by the horns and ran with it."
He's been a firefighter for 48 years and during that time has helped the community countless times. Now, it was others reaching out to help him get back on his feet after his home was damaged in the storm.
"Starting at my house, I've got roof damage, door busted, window busted. And then, right here was actually a pump house, a shed that encompassed my well and my reservoir and it's completely gone," Cutrer added.
His losses did not go unnoticed. When Nick Barlow heard about the storm, he wanted to help, bringing a team of volunteers from Chalmette.
"We seen the news last night and was thinking, 'Man, that's a tough time to go through something like this right here at Christmas,'" Barlow said. "Didn't know who we were coming to meet or what we were coming to do. We just wanted to come lend a hand."
Cutrer was among some 300 people who went a second day without power. Extra crews were called in to help get the lights back on in the tight-knit community.
"We know most of the victims personally," said Terry Bradley. "It's hard, but thank God nobody got hurt."
The Red Cross and the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office were also on scene.
"It's a home grown family here. When you see people who you're close to that this affects and suffers the wrath of a storm like this, you just want to come out and all hands on deck try to get everything accomplished," Purdue added.
The tornado is a Christmas memory no one saw coming, but because everyone survived unscathed, it reiterates to people what is most important this holiday.