Tornado-ravaged communities in North Texas will need our help

Posted Thursday, May. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
A

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

Many of our North Texas neighbors are grieving today over loss of life, devastation of property and major disruptions of their communities that will take a long time to repair and perhaps even longer to heal.

The series of storms that passed through the area Wednesday night, spawning at least 10 tornadoes, hail and powerful straight-line winds, left at least six people dead, several unaccounted for, scores injured and many families homeless.

The scenes in Hood, Johnson and Ellis counties were shocking as Thursday’s sunrise began to reveal the extent of the destruction, showing large swaths through communities trapped in the storms’ paths.

Considering the extent of damage, it was no real surprise when officials with the National Weather Service said the tornado that hit near Granbury was measured at an EF-4 (the second strongest category, with winds of 166 to 200 mph), and the one touching down in Cleburne was an EF-3.

As with any disaster, North Texans and people across the nation are eager to assist their neighbors with donations of money, goods and services. But before you rush off to help, and before victims of this calamity begin accepting offers for repairs and loans, a word of caution.

It’s unfortunate that in instances like these, predators are ready to prey on those suffering — victimizing them more — and on donors who feel compelled to help those left in need by disasters.

After the bombings in Boston and the explosion in West last month, the Internal Revenue Service issued a nationwide warning to be on the lookout for charity scams, many of which use names similar to reputable charitable organizations.

In a “sad but true” statement, the IRS said, “Following major disasters and tragedies, scam artists impersonate charities to steal money or get private information from well-intentioned taxpayers. Fraudulent schemes involve solicitations by phone, social media, email or in person.”

It’s recommended that those who want to help donate only to qualified charities (check fema.gov for a list). The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army, two of the more reliable relief groups, are already on the scene in the hard-hit areas of North Texas.

The IRS says never send cash donations, and “Never give your Social Security number, credit card number or bank account number and passwords to anyone who solicits a contribution from you. Scam artists use this information to steal your identity and money.”

Also Thursday, the Better Business Bureau cautioned homeowners in the affected areas about roofing ripoffs, home repair scams and online swindlers. The BBB warns against giving personal information to anyone on the Internet or giving in to high-pressure in-person sales techniques. Check out a business at www.bbb.org.

In addition, the organization suggests that those who’ve suffered property damage check with their insurance company as soon as possible; get everything in writing when working with a contractor; don’t make large down payments or pay in full until work is completed; and make sure they understand what they’re signing (an estimate or a contract).

All who are eager to help should wait on requests from officials or civic leaders in these ravaged communities before starting any drive for donations of goods, supplies and equipment. That kind of effort can be more of a problem than assistance if the things being collected are not what’s needed.

Our neighbors know people are ready and willing to come to their aid. And North Texans will be there when needed.

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse, images, internet links or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?