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Mother and son killed by EF3 tornado that ripped through Ruston, Louisiana, and left town in tatters

April 25, 2019; 8:31 AM


A state of emergency was declared in Louisiana after a tornado tore through a college town this week during the overnight hours, leaving the area in tatters and at least two people dead.

A weather system packing severe storms moved across the southern United States Wednesday night into Thursday, spawning a total of at least eight tornadoes across east Texas and Louisiana, according to a preliminary report by the National Weather Service (NWS). One powerful twister that hit the northern Louisiana town of Ruston is blamed for the deaths of a mother and her teen child, the News Star reported.

"It's bad, real bad," Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker told the News Star on Thursday. "We took a direct hit."

Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone told the News Star that the two fatalities occurred in a house off of Interstate 20. Thirty-four-year-old Kendra Butler and her 14-year-old son Remington Butler, who would've turned 15 on Saturday, were killed when a tree fell through their home.

"They called in the morning at about 2:20 and told me that [two of my grandchildren] got out, the tornado hit the house, the tree fell on the house and that my daughter and grandson were still trapped in there," Cathey Jackson told KNOE News.

Neighbor Jesse Pullin said Remington's younger brother and cousin rushed to his home for help, but when Pullin tried to get inside the home, he was unable.

Kendra was a Grambling State University student, and the university released a statement following her and her son's tragic death.

"On behalf of the entire Grambling State University family, [we] would like to offer our condolences to the family of Kendra Butler and her son Remington Butler as they mourn the loss of our student and community member," the statement read. "While it is difficult to find reason for events like these, we do have faith that the strong love and concern that connects us will once again carry us through as we assist in recovery."

Now, instead of preparing to celebrate Remington's birthday with him, the Ruston High School student's mourning basketball teammates plan to have a vigil in remembrance of their friend on Friday. "Just yesterday, I was in the gym with him again. We were just hooping, we were just smiling the whole time. It's sad he's not going to be here anymore," Remington's best friend, Keshun Davis, said in an emotional interview, adding that the well-liked student would be dearly missed.

On Thursday afternoon, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency for all of Louisiana. The governor also toured the affected area to survey the damage. The Ruston tornado has been given a preliminary rating of an EF3 with winds between 136 mph and 165 mph, according to the NWS office in Shreveport, Louisiana.

(Facebook photo/@Doug Warner)

Thirty-five-year-old Kendra Butler, a Grambling State University student, and her 14-year-old son Remington Butler, who would've turned 15 on Saturday, were killed when a tree fell through their home on Wednesday night in Ruston, Louisiana.

(Twitter/@LAFIREMARSHAL)

Louisiana State Fire Marshal deputies started working Thursday morning to clear large debris from around college dorms at Louisiana Tech University.

(Twitter/@LAFIREMARSHAL)

The Louisiana State Fire Marshal deputies arrived at the Louisiana Tech University to clear areas of debris.

(Twitter photo@LATechSports)

Louisiana Tech's athletic fields suffered some damage after a tornado hit the campus. "We are still in shock over the devastation to our city and our campus," the athletics department tweeted.

(Twitter photo@LATechSports)

Louisiana Tech's athletic fields suffered some damage after a tornado hit the campus. "We are still in shock over the devastation to our city and our campus," the athletics department tweeted.

(Twitter/@LAFIREMARSHAL)

Large pieces of debris was removed from around dorms at Louisiana Tech University.

(Photo/Brandon Clement)

The tornado that struck Ruston, Louisiana, destroyed several buildings.

(Twitter/@ccsnchz_)

The tornado that tore through Ruston, Louisiana, wrecked havoc on the Louisiana Tech University campus in the early hours of Thursday, April 25, 2019.

(Twitter/@ccsnchz_)

The tornado that tore through Ruston wrecked havoc on the Louisiana Tech University campus in the early hours of Thursday, April 25, 2019.

(Twitter/@ccsnchz_)

The tornado that tore through Ruston wrecked havoc on the Louisiana Tech University campus in the early hours of Thursday, April 25, 2019.

(Twitter/@ccsnchz_)

The tornado that tore through Ruston moved vehicles on the Louisiana Tech University campus in the early hours of Thursday, April 25, 2019.

(Photo/Brandon Clement)

The tornado that hit Ruston Wednesday night into Thursday, caused severe property damage, tearing off roofs and demolishing buildings.

(Photo/Brandon Clement)

The tornado that hit Ruston, Louisiana Wednesday night into Thursday, caused severe property and tree damage.

(Twitter/@bryanmc1998)

Trees lie scattered across the Louisiana Tech University campus, torn from their base by the tornado.

(Twitter/@bryanmc1998)

Strong winds from the tornado that struck Ruston uprooted trees at the Louisiana Tech University campus.

(Twitter/@bryanmc1998)

Strong winds from the tornado that struck Ruston, Louisiana uprooted trees at the Louisiana Tech University campus.

(Twitter/@bryanmc1998)

Trees lie uprooted across the Louisiana Tech University campus, uprooted or snapped at the base from the tornado that struck Wednesday night into Thursday.

(Twitter/@DanielValcho)

Tree debris lies scattered across roads after the tornado in Ruston, Louisiana.

(Twitter/@DanielValcho)

Strong winds from the tornado that hit Ruston, snapped trees at the trunks.

(Twitter/@DanielValcho)

The tornado that struck Ruston Wednesday night into Thursday morning snapped trees at the trunk.

(Twitter/@DanielValcho)

Tree debris lies scattered across parts of Ruston after the tornado that struck Wednesday night into Thursday.

(Twitter/Cory Diaz /Monroe News-Star)

The tornado that struck Ruston, Louisiana Wednesday night through Thursday tore through the Louisiana Tech University campus, wrecking havoc on the softball and soccer fields.

(Brandon Clement)

The tornado that struck Ruston collapsed roofs and caused major property damage.

(Brandon Clement)

The tornado tore through stores, causing major property damage.

(Brandon Clement)

Buildings lie torn apart in the wake of the tornado that struck Ruston.

(Brandon Clement)

The tornado that struck Ruston tore into buildings Wednesday night into Thursday.

(Brandon Clement)

Fallen tree branches tangled with power lines in Ruston amid the tornado.

(Brandon Clement)

Debris and power lines lie scattered in streets after the tornado that struck Ruston, Louisiana, Wednesday night into Thursday.


Photos of downed trees and destroyed buildings began to emerge on social media, and Walker told the News Star that the area had also suffered "a tremendous amount of electrical grid issues."

Trained spotters and law enforcement confirmed significant damage to the campus of Louisiana Tech. The university announced on Twitter Thursday morning that the school was closed as a result of the tornado. Schools throughout Lincoln Parish announced they would be closed Thursday. No injuries were reported on the Louisiana Tech campus.

"We are still assessing damage to campus due to the tornado," Louisiana Tech President Les Guice said on Twitter. "Power lines are down and a lot of debris is as well, creating safety hazards. We need all to stay in place. Let us know if you have special needs. Classes are canceled for Thursday."

Guice said that core academic buildings on campus were in good shape and the university still has power. A number of the school's athletic field suffered major damage.

A line of potent storms moved through the area around 1:50 a.m. CDT Thursday. Edwards said the Louisiana National Guard, Louisiana State Police and the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness are assisting local responders following the tornado.

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"Our prayers are with the people of Ruston today," Edwards said.

Residents were urged to stay off the roads Thursday morning if possible, according to the sheriff's department.

"Several areas in and around Ruston suffered tornado damage and power outages. There are also trees and power lines over roadways, and it could be unsafe for motorists," the sheriff's office said. An emergency curfew for the city was put in effect from 10 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday.

About 16,000 customers were without power Thursday morning across Louisiana. That number had gone down to about 2,300 by Friday morning, according to poweroutage.us.

Prior to the Ruston tornado, significant tornado damage occurred in eastern Texas near the town of San Augustine. The damage was reported at the intersection of U.S. Highway 96 and Texas State Highway 21. Initial reports from the NWS say the tornado was at least an EF2.

San Augustine city officials said on Facebook that major tornado damage was reported in town, and City Hall would be closed Thursday.

"The city has more than 30 or 40 power poles that snapped and trees are across many of the roadways," officials said.

At least five tornadoes were reported Wednesday into Thursday, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.

Earlier Wednesday, storms produced a significant flooding threat across Texas, including in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Three people were killed after their vehicle was swept away in floodwaters south of Dublin, Texas.

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