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Keithville woman, daughter survive tornado in closet

By Web staff

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    KEITHVILLE, Louisiana (KTBS) — There’s only half a roof on the mobile home Presley Stevens shared with her family.

The rest was peeled off Tuesday night when an EF2 tornado blowing approximately 130 mph dropped into the Pecans Farm neighborhood in southwest Caddo Parish.

Presley and her young daughter were fortunate; they survived. Two of their neighbors didn’t.

“I was in my bedroom right here,” Presley said, motioning to a room on the other side that still had a roof. “My daughter was in there with me. We had to get in the closet. I kept trying to pull the door shut and it was flying back open. It happened four or five times. Then I got it, I had to like hold it shut. And it was just a lot of wind and I felt the house tip off the foundation.”

Presley first heard a loud “wooshing sound.” Then, “I heard all our stuff flying, smacking into stuff, our windows busting out.”

“So, the one place you went to for sanctuary was the right place to be?” asked KTBS reporter Rick Rowe.

“Yeah, luckily, very luckily,” Presley said.

Close by, Sheriff Steve Prator arrived after the tornado had done its deed to find Jamie Doyle Little in the middle of the road trying to find his wife and son. He left work to get home to check on them but couldn’t get around because of the swath of downed trees in his way.

Little described his house to Prator and deputies.

“We all came down here to try and find it. We didn’t know what he was talking about. We had to get him in here to say that’s where my house was,” Prator said.

That’s because the only thing remaining of Little’s mobile home was the pad it once sat on.

Then the search for his wife and son began. It went on for several hours and it was shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday before the body of his son, Nikolus Little, 8, was found about a half-mile away, Prator said.

Little’s wife, Yoshiko Smith, 30, was found early Wednesday morning a couple of hundred yards from where the house once was located, Prator said.

“I describe it as a Job moment for this poor fella. You know, all the sudden he’s at work, tries to get hold of his family and a storm comes through and just as quick as you can snap your fingers, he’s lost his house, everything that he owned. … You know, that makes it different than a lot of natural disasters,” Prator said.

At least 12 homes were leveled and 50 damaged.

Others who survived the tornado spent Wednesday trying to save memories from the mounds of debris.

“My memories are in trees right now,” said Shane Fenley after seeing his home in the daylight after the tornado sucked it off the foundation. He was at work but his wife was inside.

“She told me she didn’t have enough time to react by the time the tornado was here. She managed to run from the living room and jump into our bedroom closet by the time the house started ripping apart,” Fenley said.

A neighbor dug her out of the rubble. She has a broken pelvis and was taken the hospital. Fenley also pulled two of his dogs our of the debris.

“All the stuff we had for Christmas is gone. It’s all gone. … I have a 16-year-old daughter named Ashlyn, a 15-year-old boy named Connor and a 10-year-old boy named Dawson,” said Fenley.

Fenley is glad his wife survived because, he said, you can salvage some material things but you can’t get a life back.

Prator said deputies are still making sure everyone is accounted for. Detectives have been looped in to check license plates of all vehicles so that owners can be tracked down. They’re also making contact with utility providers to also double check homeowners and their whereabouts.

“Now is the tedious part,” Prator said.

“It’s really been a difficult thing for the deputies, firefighters, state police and all to work. Been working all night and the parish commission. I’m real proud of all the first responders who were out here. It was a long wet night for all of us,” Prator said Wednesday afternoon.

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