Most of us have seen scenes like this on TV and thought, "Oh my, how terrible", sometimes even adding a bit of colorful language to express our shock. But then 10 seconds later the news topic is on to something else like what the latest dumb thing The Donald said today, and the storm story is just filed away for the next days water cooler conversation.
Yesterday I was called on to come see if I could help a victim of the south Garland, TX tornado that struck on Dec. 26. What I saw there with my own 4 eyes (including the bionic parts) left me speechless. It just went on for blocks and blocks....
This is what a F-4 tornado can do. Regardless of whether it is a $ house or a $$$$ house, I doubt the result would have been much different.
These were modest homes built around 1980, most about 1800 square feet, and originally costing roughly $20K to $30K. My research showed that they had recently been selling for somewhere between $140K to $170K. The sad part, I found out, was that the owners had them insured for that current sales price (if they were lucky), NOT for the cost of the labor and materials necessary to rebuild them. Our recent super-hot housing market and its accompanying inflation is going to hurt these already shell-shocked storm victims.
This is the home that I went to see. The wall on the southern end is totally gone, and the oddest part....the roof was raised up at least several inches, and then set right back down again. You could tell because when the roof was up, everything inside was being sucked up and out, and things such as window coverings/blinds, linens, etc were trapped in the once-open gap when it slammed shut. And of course with the big holes in the roof, everything inside was totally ruined by the accompanying heavy rains.
The consensus opinion that I heard was that the City of Garland apparently had in place a very well developed and rehearsed disaster plan to deal with just such a catastrophe. The streets were being cleared almost immediately so that emergency responders could get in and out. By the time I got there several days later cars that were once crushed and on TOP of houses were deposited curbside along with mountains of cut up tree debris and were being hauled off by city crews. The city also had brought in 3rd-party crews to clean up all the "stuff" littering the freeway shoulders and vacant fields for miles around the tornado's path.
Community response was nothing short of amazing: I saw several big trucks/trailers from religious denominations bringing in volunteer laborers and supplies. Teenagers on Christmas break wearing distinctive bright colored volunteer t-shirts were working like an army of little ants. The Red Cross had a disaster relief truck on scene, and the parking lot of a nearby business was the staging area for free food and probably 10+ pallets of water available for workers.
I heard stories of local businesses buying out and donating every shovel and rake and garbage can from every source within miles. Police were all over the area, the scene was calm, and there was no evidence of looting. The Dallas Builders Association is acting as a clearing house to help direct those needing assistance to reputable contractors, and away from the invasion of shysters who always show up hoping to fleece the already suffering.
Bottom line....KUDOS to the volunteers, residents, and the City of Garland for their exceptional response!
Miraculously no one in this neighborhood was killed inside their collapsing homes. That advice we hear about getting to an inside room such as a bathroom and covering with mattresses, blankets, and such really works! And the advice to stay out of cars during a tornado is also true. The 8 (?) fatalities in the area were all killed when they were driving down I-30 (it was night time) when the sky opened up raining debris, then lifted up vehicles and slammed them back down again on their roofs. They probably never knew what was happening to them.
Luckily the fiance of the lady I went to see is a residential remodeler. Because they are going to be woefully short of insurance money to rebuild, I told them I could help get them a city building permit and could bring in my crew to build them a shell (walls, sheathing, roof), and then they could handle the interior (essentially cosmetic) finish out. They just might be able to get things put back close to what it was without breaking whatever bank they had left.
Lotta work left to do, but it WILL get done!