Tornado devastates Alto, Caddo Mounds

Damage and debris are left behind after a storm hit the city of Alto. One person died, and several others were injured. Among the injured were some SFA students and faculty and staff members.

 

Storms blew through The Caddo Mounds State Historic Site in Alto April 13, destroying parts of the museum, leaving one person dead and injuring dozens of others.

Some SFA students were in the museum for the Caddo Culture Days. Jasmine Bourque, a junior art education major from Sheppard, was teaching a clay pots seminar with a professor and another student when the tornado hit.

“They say it was an F2, which isn’t that bad, but for me never experiencing one, it was terrible,” Bourque said. “I didn’t really get a good look. I was by a window, and through the window all I saw was white from the rain and the wind and stuff. And then I was pushed into a room, and then the building collapsed on me, and that’s all that I saw.”

Bourque says that due to lack of service in the area, the extent of the storm was unknown, leaving little time for necessary safety precautions.

“Whenever everything was kind of happening, it just happened so fast,” Bourque said. “There were people that knew to go to the bathroom because that was the safest place to go, but in a panic, we were all just pushed into a classroom, and we all just fell down. And then it was over. In the split of the moment, there wasn’t any safety precautions taken.”

The following Monday, interim president of SFA, Dr. Steve Westbrook, sent out an email regarding the storms, wishing for recovery and informing students and faculty of counseling services available to those affected.

“Lumberjack students and faculty participating in the Caddo Culture Day event at the Caddo Mounds State Historic Site west of Alto were in the very center of the devastation. I have reports of acts of heroism by members of this group both during and after the tornado. Although the vehicles used as transportation to the event were destroyed, I am so thankful that no life-threatening injuries were reported among our group. Vehicles can be replaced – Lumberjacks can’t,” the email stated.

To help with the clean-up process, different SFA sports teams have gone to the museum, clearing debris and rebuilding parts of the surrounding area. Kaycee Richard, a junior equine science major from Lake Charles, Louisiana, went with other members of the Rodeo Team on April 15 and 16 and rebuilt fences.

“It was definitely something that you never thought you would see, like it was in a movie,” Richard said. “I haven’t seen anything that bad since Hurricane Rita, but there was just cars and trucks stacked on top of each other and trees everywhere, on houses all over the road and just trash everywhere. Houses where just demolished, barely anything left and the poor families just standing outside in shock. But there were lots of people out there helping out.”

Richard said there is more work to be done, and various members of the team will likely be going back to continue to help.

Students who would like to volunteer can find opportunities through contacting the Dean of Student Affairs at (936) 468-7249 or dosa@sfasu.edu.

Meredith Janning has worked on The Pine Log since her second semester at Stephen F. Austin. During her time at The Pine Log, Meredith has held the positions of staff writer and news editor.

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