On Easter Sunday, right around noon, right in the middle of a global pandemic, where people were celebrating Easter quarantined in their homes, an F-3 tornado struck our area. This tornado first touched the ground in the Bawcomville area and didn’t lift back up until it was past the Monroe airport. It mostly traveled through very old, established neighborhoods with trees that were over 100 years old. Many of those trees were unable to withstand the extreme high winds of the tornado and the devastation caused when they fell was unbelievable. Old oaks and giant pine trees turned into super sized projectiles. Streets on the south side of West Monroe and all along Orange Street in Monroe were totally blocked. All power was gone and most power lines were on the ground. Many of the old homes had trees leaning against them or on top of them.
The Cedar Crest Disaster relief team was called into action on Monday morning and worked the entire day cutting trees around the parsonage at Rescue Church. We worked diligently and made great progress. By the end of the day it actually looked like a different place.
Tuesday led to a much bigger challenge. The team went to the Sholars Street area of West Monroe. A large oak was all the way across the top of a house and the roof was completely caved in.
The resident -Melvin – had just prayed for the tree to be removed from his house when I approached him and told him that we were there to do just that. We divided and conquered working on two houses in West Monroe that morning. Shortly after noon the tree was totally off of the roof, and I had a new healthy respect for this group of men from our church, and what they were capable of doing to serve.
Lunch was red beans and rice provided by JAC’s tailgaters. It gave us the energy we needed to move into Monroe. Most of the streets in Monroe were still blocked from downed trees, or Entergy trucks attempting to restore much needed power. We weaved our way through narrow streets, and finally landed at a residence at 710 South 3rd Street. We started cutting through the trees in the front and side, where you could not see any of the yard because it was totally covered by downed trees. When we cut our way to the back yard, it was even worse.
Wednesday morning we arrived back on South 3rd and found another crew already at work there. We located a need at 800 South 5th where giant pine trees literally covered the back yard. We went to work. A much needed lunch was provided that day by the Salvation Army and Christ Church. It reenergized us and enabled us to finish strong. (But tired). These guys put themselves in harms way – even braving the ongoing Covid virus to serve in an unbelievable way.
You really can’t imagine the sense of relief that is exhibited by the residents when we tell them what we’re there to do, and that it is a free service to the community.
The cleanup effort is far from over, but consistent, steady progress is being made each day.