Remembering the Bossier City tornado outbreak 39 years ago

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(BOSSIER CITY, LA) – The deadly Bossier City tornado of December 3rd, 1978 formed at two in the morning and traveled 8 miles on the ground from the Red River near the Arthur Teague Parkway all the way to the Dogwood subdivision next to Louisiana Downs before lifting.

The storm peaked with 260 mph winds and was a half mile wide at times. There were 2 fatalities and 266 injured. Damage totaled over $100 million.

One thing that helped was the time of day. Just before two in the morning, so there weren’t many people on the streets. But, it didn’t take long for the full scope of the damage to become clear.

It was a sad day for all of those who were there, and KTBS 3’s own Rick Rowe was on the scene. Here’s his original report in 1978:

“The killer storm was first sighted by the National Weather Service Shreveport as a large, individual thunderstorm moving in front of a line of other thunderstorms, approaching from Northeast Texas. A formation of a single thunderstorm in front of a storm line is often an indication that a storm will be severe. That prompted the issuance of a Severe Thunderstorm Warning at 1:25 a.m. And as it moved across Shreveport Regional Airport, we did get strong winds, about 40 miles an hour, and heavy rain, but that was about it. And then when the cell was about halfway between regional airport and Bossier, we noted characteristics of a tornado forming. It was 15 minutes from the time the Severe Thunderstorm warning was issued until the killer tornado was spawned at 1:50 a.m. The storm was tracked for 50 miles on and off the ground. It died just west of El Dorado Arkansas. Another, separate tornado was sighted near Bodcau lake around 2:30. At 3:30 this morning another tornado touched down and caused widespread destruction in Heflin, Louisiana. This is all not that unusual. We have had 4 damaging tornadoes in the month of December since 1933 in the Shreveport Bossier area. We do not have the frequency of tornadoes that we have in the Central Plains. But violent tornadoes, we have just as high a frequency if you look over the last 50 years, as anyplace in the United States. According to Etheridge, 8 out of 10 tornadoes last 3-4 minutes, pack winds of less than 200 miles an hour and cause only moderate damage. The remaining 2% are called the super storms. The ones that are remembered for years. This morning’s was just such a storm. Rick Rowe, Action 3 News.”

If the story occurred today, the potential for damage would be much greater. Newer structures such as Pierre Bossier Mall, would likely suffer significant damage. Diamond Jacks Casino would probably see some damage as well given its proximity to the initial touchdown location.

by KTBS 3
December 4, 2017

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Kyrie Wagner