Perry, Abbott tour tornado-damaged Granbury, pledge aid

Posted Friday, May. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Information meeting today Representatives from the American Red Cross, Mission Granbury, insurance companies and contractors will be available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at the Church of Christ, 1905 West Pearl Street in Granbury. They will answer questions about disaster recovery. Residents will be asked to present proof of residency. Contractors and insurance company representatives should call the Hood Fire Marshall’s Office at 817-579-3335 for additional information. How to help or get help Donations can be made to the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org/tx/dallas-fort-worth People needing assistance from the Red Cross may call 817-335-9137. Donations of material items can be made to Mission Granbury. Call 817-614-2556 to make arrangements. Source: Hood County Sheriff’s Department

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Gov. Rick Perry stood amid the rubble of homes destroyed on Wednesday night and promised they would be rebuilt, possibly with “private sector” help.

Perry briefly mentioned what he described as a “concept” while talking to reporters during a tour of Rancho Brazos Estates, the subdivision was leveled by a deadly EF4 tornado that killed six people.

Perry was joined by Attorney General Greg Abbott and Hood County officials including Sheriff Roger Deeds and County Judge Darrell Cockerham.

“Two nights ago, I’m sure, these streets were filled with children,” Perry said. “There were strong families, taking kids to school and just living life — a very normal life.

“But a tornado can turn your life upside down very quickly to just wood, glass and concrete slabs. But these houses will be replaced.”

Perry said “private sector” individuals want to help Granbury and the city of West, which a month ago lost 14 people and numerous residences in a fertilizer plant explosion.

The plan could provide aid from “Texans to Texans” on specific disasters and give donors another option beyond “writing a check to a national organization,” Perry said.

Officials will begin working on details soon, and “hopefully we can create a national model,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state’s emergency management offices are prepared to help the Hood County community. He called them the “best” in the country, with plenty of experience dealing with tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes and the crash of a space shuttle.

“Unfortunately we get to see [them] operate more often than we’d like,” he said.

The governor also indicated that disaster declarations would be made soon, which is necessary to apply for federal aid.

Tornadoes on Friday

Later Friday, North Texans had nervous eyes on tornadic activity in Young, Stephens and Palo Pinto counties.

The National Weather Service in Fort Worth confirmed that a funnel cloud was spotted on the Young-Stephens county line. Meteorologists said they were told that at least one house was damaged by a tornado or severe thunderstorm near Eliasville.

The afternoon forecast for areas of North Texas west of a line from Jacksboro to Lampasas called for “unstable” atmosphere and “thunderstorms with the potential to produce giant hail, damaging winds and isolated tornadoes.”

Closer to Tarrant County, the weekend forecast suggests nothing dangerous, although wind gusts Sunday could be as high as 30 mph. The temperature that suggests spring is waning and summer is near: Highs both days and into the early part of the week will be near 90.

On Friday, survey teams with the National Weather Service continued to assess the storm damage from Wednesday’s deadly outbreak. Sixteen tornadoes have been confirmed, beginning with one at Lake Amon G. Carter in Montague County at 5:38 p.m. and ending with a twister in Ennis at 12:10 a.m.

During the press conference Friday, a reporter told Deeds that some Granbury residents said they did not hear warning sirens until too late.

Deeds replied that as soon as they spotted it, officials immediately reported a possible rotation to the National Weather Service, and when it was confirmed, they set off the sirens.

But, he added, “There’s never enough time with tornadoes and thunderstorms.”

The tornado, which packed winds of between 166 and 200 mph, was the deadliest in the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1957.

Residents want to return

People who lived in Rancho Brazos have not been allowed back in. Deeds said they would be allowed in for several hours on Saturday, but a curfew remains in place.

Residents will have to register to be “allowed entry after passing through a checkpoint,” authorities said in a news release and the “hours for entry verification at Rancho Brazos” will start 10 a.m. today.

“Everyone will be out of the area by the 8 p.m.,” according to the news release. The hours Sunday will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Officials said they were working with utility companies to restore water and electricity to the area.

Many of the 110 homes in Rancho Brazos were constructed by Habitat for Humanity, a faith-based nonprofit that provides affordable housing to low income families.

Amy Parham, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Texas, said of the 61 Habitat homes in Rancho Brazos, 58 sustained damage that “ranged from nothing left, to several dozen with significant damage and some that had minor damage.”

She said a trailer full of tools and building materials appears to be lost and that a new house that was to scheduled be dedicated Saturday was flattened.

Parham said Habitat workers are assessing damage and trying to determine when the rebuilding effort can begin.

“It might be sooner than many might think,” she said.

She said that none of those injured lived in Habitat homes.

Some still hospitalized

A handful of the injured remained hospitalized Friday in Fort Worth.

Of the five patients at John Peter Smith Hospital, one was in serious condition, three were in fair condition and one was good. At Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth, two patients remained in serious condition.

The six people killed in Rancho Brazos have been identified as Robert H. Whitehead and Glenda Whitehead, in their 60s; Jose Tovar Alvarez, 34; Leo Stefanski, 83; Tommy Martin, 61; and Marjari Davis, about 82.

Emilia Lopez, a resident of Rancho Brazos, said she was an acquaintance of Tovar, whom she said was from Mexico.

“He was a happy young man,” Lopez said in Spanish. “He was always smiling.”

She said she is grateful the tornado didn’t strike her family’s house directly and is anxious to return.

“We want to return, but we haven’t gotten permission,” Lopez said.

The Red Cross continues to operate a shelter at First Christian Church in Granbury, where victims can find food, counseling and beds.

About 200 people came through the shelter on Thursday, said Anita Foster, spokeswoman for the Red Cross. Thirty-one people slept at the shelter Thursday night.

“It speaks volumes to the amount of need,” Foster said. “They don’t have anywhere else to go.”

Cleburne schools closed

A tornado also hit Cleburne Wednesday night, an EF3 with winds peaking at 140 mph, weather service survey teams reported. It was 1,060 yards wide and was on the ground for 8.5 miles.

Schools were closed for two days. On Friday, Superintendent Tim Miller announced that students would return to class Monday at regular starting time. Maintenance crews were working around the clock to make three campuses usable.

Alternative classrooms will be arranged if power is not restored to Gerard Elementary School and Smith Middle School. Parents should check the school district’s website at www.cleburne.k12.tx.us.

Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain said 30 homes sustained “dramatic” damage, “600-plus” homes with some damage but “zero fatalities and zero serious injuries.”

Bill Miller, 817-390-7684 Twitter: @Bill_MillerST

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