Helping Homeowners in Storm-weary West Monroe, Louisiana

April 23, 2020 • United States

With 2016’s catastrophic flooding still in recent memory, Ouachita Parish again welcomed the work of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers after tornadoes ripped through the area.

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Hours before the storm Willie Godfrey’s dogs started digging, and Willie wondered why—but not for long. Only minutes before noon on Easter Sunday an EF-3 tornado touched down in West Monroe, Louisiana, and carved a six-mile path across the community heading directly for the Godfreys’ home.

Dianne Thompson meets with chaplains at her West Monroe home where she and her husband, Willie Godfrey, experienced an EF-3 tornado.

Dianne Thompson meets with chaplains at her West Monroe home where she and her husband, Willie Godfrey, experienced an EF-3 tornado.

“The dogs know. They know,” Willie said. “Now I know. That’s why they were digging that hole.”

He was in the kitchen cooking when the twister hit. His wife, Dianne, was lying in bed.

“It got quiet all of a sudden, and my husband said it seemed real dark. By then the alert was going off. By then it was just coming,” Dianne said.

The first thing they heard was the spewing of rocks onto their house, which they later learned were slate shingles from the roof of a nearby art museum. Then the twister crossed the Ouachita River and minutes later ripped up the Godfreys’ roof.

“He ran in there where I was and we couldn’t do anything but lay in there beside the bed,” Dianne said. “I was just praying. Just praying. It seemed like it went so fast. I said ‘God please help us. Please help everyone.’”

Volunteers prepare tarps for patching the damaged roof of Marion and Lee Velma Prudhomme.

Volunteers prepare tarps for patching a damaged roof.

God protected the Godfreys and many others but more than 450 homes were damaged across Louisiana’s Ouachita Parish by the storm. Samaritan’s Purse volunteers have been working in the area since April 14 helping homeowners in Jesus’ Name by clearing trees and debris from homes and property, patching damaged roofs with tarps, and sharing the hope found only in Jesus Christ.

The Godfreys are one of dozens of homeowners we have assisted in Ouachita Parish as we continue a four-state response in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and South Carolina. More than 1,300 volunteers have joined our efforts at these four locations after severe storms ripped through April 12-13, spawning nearly 70 tornadoes and leaving 30 people dead.

A Blessing in the Midst of Crisis

Marion Prudhomme said the twister struck without warning: “When the siren went off it was already here.”

He was sitting at his kitchen table when it hit and shattered the window behind him. It left behind downed trees, debris, a ripped-up roof, two terrified grandchildren, and a distraught autistic son.

Volunteers place tarp on the damaged roof of Marion and Lee Velma Prudhomme.

Volunteers place tarp on the roof of Marion and Lee Velma Prudhomme.

“There was really nothing we could do,” Marion said. He recounted taking “maybe two bites of breakfast. My wife and I, we were listening to the Easter sermon. By the time the siren went off it was already here. It came through the window. By the time I hit the floor and said ‘in the Name of Jesus’—maybe like five or six seconds—it was over. Didn’t even have time to get on my knees to pray a prayer.”

Our volunteers worked at the Prudhomme home assisting Marion and his wife by fastening tarps across the entirety of their damaged roof. They also cut and hauled large branches that had fallen onto the property.

Volunteer James Williams says that when the storms came through, the wind howled across his property in Rocky Branch, a community 30 miles north of West Monroe. From the news reports and the weather in his own area, he knew what was passing south of them was potentially devastating.

When an opportunity arose to respond with Samaritan’s Purse, James jumped at the opportunity.

“I love God. Want to serve the good Lord. I go to church. Read my Bible. I love getting out and helping people,” he said. “I saw it on the news. My wife and I were sitting outside when it came through. I told my wife I said, ‘Look. I don’t work. I’m on disability. Instead of sitting around the house I could show love by going out and helping folks.’ ”

Williams says he’d been the victim of flooding when Hurricane Katrina hit his Texas community back in 2005. He says he lost everything.

Marion and Lee Velma Prudhomme are grateful for the work of Samaritan's Purse at their home where an EF-3 tornado shook their lives on Easter.

Marion and Lee Velma Prudhomme are grateful for the work of Samaritan’s Purse at their home where an EF-3 tornado shook their lives on Easter.

“I know what it’s like to be devastated by a storm. I was devastated. I had five feet of water in my house,” he said. “I’m staying down here as long as I can and helping out.”

Williams was part of the team tarping roofs at the Prudhommes’ and at other homes in preparation for another storm system that was passing through the area the Sunday after Easter—exactly one week after the initial catastrophic weather event.

As hours of heavy rain moved into West Monroe again, the work of our tarping crews kept already storm-weary families from seeing even more of their belongings ruined. Through the work of these volunteer teams who continue to labor at homes all across Ouachita Parish in the days after the Easter storms, God continues to bless the community through the work and words of His people.

“It’s a total blessing,” said Marion Prudhomme. “It’s almost like a miracle, you know? It’s unbelievable. Unbelievable. We give God the honor and we give God the glory because He is the orchestrator behind it all.”

Samaritan's Purse volunteers continue to assist communities in West Monroe, Louisiana.

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers continue to assist communities in West Monroe, Louisiana.

Update: Our relief response in Monroe, Louisiana, has ended (April 28). We are thankful for 145 volunteers who served with us, and praise God for saving six individuals.

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U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

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