I had originally planned on posting several new articles on my blog last week, but as some of you already know things have changed dramatically in our lives. Last Saturday evening nine tornadoes were reported in our area of East Texas. Five of them, including a massive F5 were actually on the ground at the same time in our county of Van Zandt. The F5 storm was on the ground for an incredible 51 miles and caused immense damage. That is the one that made a direct hit on our small ranch near Canton, Texas.
We made it to our safe room in time thanks to a Code Red warning from the Canton fire department, and miraculously survived. When it was all over our house was only one of five in the area that has not been completely demolished. However, it has been severely damaged and has been deemed unlivable so our insurance company has put us up in a motel. We have over thirty trees on our property blown down including all five of our pear trees.
One of our oak trees came down on my pickup truck and broke it in half. One of our other two cars was totaled, but the other one suffered only minor damage and is driveable. The top of a big pine tree in our front yard was torn off and ended up coming through the roof of our house, landing above my home office. The ceiling seemed to be mostly intact, but today split open and partially collapsed. The roof to our well house was torn off, and our enclosed aluminum six car garage, work shop and storage area was demolished. All of my ranch equipment including my small tractor, tools, chainsaw etc. was totaled. Currently no power and only what water my emergency generator call draw from our damaged well.
On the up side the outpouring of support from the people of Canton and in fact all of Texas has been amazing. Within two hours of the tornado two Van Zandt County Sheriff’s deputies showed up at our door to check on us. They had to walk in because of the downed trees on our driveway and road. The next morning, our neighbors, many of whom had damage to their own homes, showed up with members of the Canton fire Department to cut through the debris so we could get out of our home. People from all over the area, including surrounding counties showed up with food and water. Local restaurants and churches opened up as shelters and served free hot meals.
Police and deputies from all over Texas have come in to patrol the area to protect us from looters, although any potential looters should know that it can be a very dangerous occupation in East Texas. Most of us will just shoot you. We also had utility companies from all over the state to put up new lines and poles so the power can be restored. The city of Canton had power within 48 hours, but those of us who live in the boonies will have to wait longer.
Strangers with chainsaws have been showing up all week to help clear our property and on Friday, May 5, the cavalry arrived. A non-profit charity organization called the Minuteman Disaster Response team from McKinney, Texas showed up with chainsaws and heavy equipment to start seriously clearing our property. They worked all day and then came back today and were joined by volunteers from Mabank, Texas who were sent by a friend of mine in Dallas. All total there were almost 100 volunteers on my property and at my neighbors, who were hit harder than we were, and they did a remarkable job.
It will still be weeks before we get a new roof on our home and can get moved back in, and even longer until our other buildings can be restored and we have full power. However, we are truly blessed, because we survived, there are five confirmed dead in the area and many apparently still missing. In addition, out of approximately 30 homes in our immediate area ours is one of only five still standing. All others were demolished.
A final rather bizarre note, when the initial volunteers were cutting a path through the downed trees for us to leave our home there was a huge live oak tree that I estimated to weigh a thousand pounds, but was later told probably weighed over 3,000 pounds, was not a tree from my property or any of the surrounding properties. The roots were intact so it had pulled out of the ground and may have come from miles away. That is an indication of how powerful this storm was.