After a deadly tornado, North Texans grapple with the ‘destruction and devastation’

Storms tore through North Texas on Saturday night, killing seven people, including children. The small community of Valley View was hit especially hard.

By Elizabeth Myong, KERA NewsMay 28, 2024 8:17 am, ,

From KERA News:

It’s the morning after a tornado swept through Cooke County, but Valley View United Methodist Church is still having Sunday service.

Pastor Beate Hall is preaching to a handful of congregants who’ve stepped away from organizing food and clothing donations. She says she’s already given a sermon on expecting the unexpected.

“But I’m going to say that still holds very true: you never know what’s going to happen next,” she says.

The sermon feels particularly timely given how much was lost overnight. Deadly storms ripped through North Texas late Saturday into early Sunday, killing at least seven people — including two children — and injuring about 100 others.

The small town of Valley View, near the Oklahoma border, was hit especially hard, leaving the community of roughly 800 people to deal with aftermath.

Taking a break on Monday, resident Sammy Ponce said he’s grateful that he and his family weren’t at home when the tornado hit.

But when he returned on Sunday, he found his home completely destroyed. He salvaged anything he could: clothing, pictures, valuables. But some things can’t be replaced.

“The most important thing that was going through my mind was all the memories that were here were just gone in a few seconds,” he said.

Gov. Greg Abbott said more than 200 homes and structures were destroyed in the storms that rolled across several North Texas counties. The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado with winds up to 135 mph struck Cooke, Denton and Montague counties, and a tornado with winds up to 165 mph hit near Celina in Collin County.

Many people were caught off guard when the storms hit. Valley View residents say tornado sirens didn’t go off, leaving some to scramble.

Storms tore through a Shell gas station along I-35 in Valley View, leaving debris and rubble behind.
Elizabeth Myong / KERA News

The destruction extended down I-35 where a Shell station became a pile of scrap metal and debris. On Sunday afternoon, construction crews combed through rubble.

While the area has been hard hit, residents are coming together to help. A steady stream of diapers, backpacks, food and water came into the community center on Sunday.

That’s where Mayor Pro Tem Joe Wilkerson was helping manage recovery efforts.

“[The] community’s really stepped up and is bringing everything imaginable,” he said. “We’re doing good, just have to start getting it out towards people.”

» HOW TO HELP: Donate, assist cleanup efforts after deadly storms in North Texas

Down the road at the Baptist church’s Reach Out Center, the Red Cross set up a shelter where survivors can sleep and get a hot shower.

Tauna Conk, the disaster program manager of the Red Cross in Fort Worth, said about 35 people stayed at the shelter Saturday night, including nine family members and some travelers who got caught in the storm.

“We fed them breakfast and tended their needs and they’ve started finding their own ways to get back home or towards their vacation they were planning,” she said.

Pastor Beate Hall said residents are still coming to terms with the damage left behind by this weekend’s storms.

“Every kid was cheered for loudly at graduation,” she said. “It feels like such a dichotomy to have that happen two weeks ago and then have this here, where there is such destruction and devastation.”

She said she’ll help her community through the grieving process. It hits everyone differently.

“The ultimate hope is that they come to that next stage where there is hope, where there is still joy, where there is still promise of new things,” she said. “But I also don’t think anyone’s going to be there any time soon, and that will be OK.”

For now, Hall said most of the short term needs have been met. But true recovery will be a long road ahead for the close-knit community.

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