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Young Mother Dies Protecting Baby From Tornado

Mar 6, 2011 – 2:35 PM
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Lisa Holewa

Lisa Holewa Contributor

Jalisa Granger was inside her southern Louisiana home with her year-old son and mother when a fierce tornado hit town, tearing roofs from houses, ripping through the high school and knocking down dozens of power lines.

The winds knocked a tree onto her family's home, collapsing the structure around them. When neighbors and family members dug through the rubble, they found a heartbreaking scene: the 21-year-old mother died while protecting her child from the storm.

"She put her body over the baby. She sheltered the child," Maxine Trahan, the public information officer for the Acadia Parish Sheriff's Office, told AOL News in a phone interview.

"The baby is fine," Trahan added.

The storm that hit Rayne on Saturday morning also injured a dozen people and damaged more than 100 homes, emergency officials said. Gov. Bobby Jindal planned to visit the town Sunday afternoon to meet with local officials and help assess damages.

"We have probably an area a half-mile wide and three miles long that's been evacuated. The gas company turned off service to over 120 residences that have been deemed not livable," Trahan said.

"This is a quarter of the city that's been affected," she said, noting that the 1,500 people living in the damaged area were evacuated overnight because of natural gas leaks.

Trahan said Granger died from physical injuries suffered when the home collapsed, though her uncle told a local television station that she died from a heart attack suffered during the storm.

"Everywhere you go, everybody here has nothing but good things to say about her -- as a person, as a mom, as a friend," Trahan said.

Granger's uncle Dan Cole told TV station KATC that it took him and neighbors more than an hour to dig through the demolished home and pull Granger, her mother and the boy free.

"They were all trapped in the house," he said. "It's just something that -- everybody is going to have to pull together as a family and console each other."

Damian Coleman, who grew up on one of the town's heavily damaged streets, told Lafayette's The Daily Advertiser that his family was home preparing for his niece's wedding when the storm hit, pinning his sister to the floor and ripping the roof off the house.

"I'm 41 years old. I grew up here. I never experienced nothing like this," Coleman told the newspaper, while pointing to the two-story wood-frame Masonic Lodge building, now a pile of debris.

At Rayne High School, the tornado damaged a computer room, the library, the gymnasium and the track, the Advertiser reported.

"I'm from here and we're used to hurricanes. We can prepare for hurricanes. You can't prepare for a tornado," Trahan told AOL News. "I'm a lifelong resident and can't remember anything affecting us like this."
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