Wild ride in SC Parish’s 'tornado trailer'

... our reporter and 20 squealing kids learn how to survive a twister - and more

January 10, 2007 at 2:00 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Reporter Shonna Riggs and
Reporter Shonna Riggs and "friends."
Kids in Luling’s Cub Scout Troop No. 173 covered their heads and buried their faces in their laps to protect themselves from a simulated tornado, then crawled on hands and knees to escape thin smoke that filled a special trailer during a torrnado-safety and fire prevention awareness class at the Hahnville Fire Station.

After  a New Year’s tornado killed three people in New Iberia just hours from here, says Cub Scout den mother Amanda Champagne, “This kind of experience and training is exactly what our kids need”

“Not only were people killed, as I recall, a few kids went missing during that storm.

“We all know how dangerous tornadoes and big storms can be. So we really want our kids to learn, not just for themselves, but also to share information with their friends and families.

“This is the first year we’ve done this and it’s been a great experience,” Champagne says.

St. Charles Parish is the only parish in the state with the trailers, which realistically simulate conditions that would occur during a fire or a tornado.

“We bought them to educate our children about protecting themselves and their families during a tornado and a fire,” says Chief Reginald Gaubert of the Hahnville Fire Department.

“One of trailers shimmies and shakes like it would in a tornado. The other trailer heats up and we pump in a special smoke to simulate conditions during a fire.

“The children have to climb out of the unit through a rear window. It’s very realistic.”

Gaubert tells the Herald-Guide 3,000 children went through the demostration last year with that many more more expected to “take the tour” this year.

Our Shonna tells you what it’s like inside ‘tornado trailer’
It shook, rocked, rattled, screeched and whistled just like the real thing ...

It shook, rocked, screeched and whistled just like the real thing - a twister made worse by pelting rain, thunder, lightning and flying debris.

And just when I thought the simulated tornado was over, it was just beginning,  a noise as loud as a train roaring down a railroad track washed over me from behind - and then everything went black.

“Everyone get into the prone position and take cover!” shouted Jeff Raia, of the Hahnville Fire Department.

The children in the parish’s tornado trailer - and one shaken reporter! - did just that.

Then it was over ... as quickly as it started.

"In a real life situation, it’s best to stay inside until the police or fire fighters arrive, and believe me, we will be coming,” said Raia.

As a reporter covering the simulation - and participating in it - I learned things about tornado safety that are easy enough to remember and practical enough to save my life.

And because I want you to be a survivor, too, here’s what I was told:

1. Don’t ever cover with a mattress, Raia says a pillow or blanket will work just as well to partially protect you from flying debris.

2. Purchase a battery-operated radio with a weatherband. 
3. If you ever get caught in a tornado and are outdoors, get in a ditch.  Raia says the tornado will pass right over you.

4. When you hear the parish’s tornado siren take it seriously. Raia says if the siren sounds in the middle of night or at anytime during a rainstorm more than likely a tornado is somewhere near by. Be prepared to take cover.

Questions? Comments? Write to reporter Shonna Riggs at editor@heraldguide.com

View other articles written Shonna Riggs

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