The Norman Transcript

May 17, 2013

Tornado devastates Habitat homes

By Angela K. Brown and Jamie Stengle
The Associated Press

GRANBURY, Texas — Habitat for Humanity spent years in a North Texas subdivision, helping build many of the 110 homes in the low-income area. But its work was largely undone during an outbreak of 13 tornadoes Wednesday night that killed six people and injured dozens.

On Thursday, authorities combed through debris in Granbury, while residents awaited the chance to see what was left of their homes. Witnesses described the two badly hit neighborhoods as unrecognizable, with homes ripped from foundations and others merely rubble.

Granbury, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth, bore the brunt of the damage. The National Weather Service’s preliminary estimate was that tornado had wind speeds between 166 mph and 200 mph. Other tornadoes spawned from the violent spring storm damaged nearby Cleburne and Millsap.

“I tell you, it has just broken my heart,” said Habitat for Humanity volunteer Elsie Tallant, who helped serve lunch every weekend to those building the homes in a Granbury neighborhood and those poised to become homeowners.

Hood County Commissioner Steve Berry said Thursday he couldn’t tell one street from another in Granbury’s Rancho Brazos Estates neighborhood because of the destruction. Half of one home was torn away while the other half was still standing, glasses and vases intact on shelves. Trees and debris were scattered across yards, and fences were flattened. Sheet metal could be seen hanging from utility wires.

The weather service said the preliminary storm estimate for the Granbury tornado was an EF-4, based on the Fujita tornado damage scale. An EF-5 is the most severe.

Of the homes in the Rancho Brazos Estates, 61 of them were built by Habitat for Humanity, according to Gage Yeager, executive director of Trinity Habitat for Humanity in Fort Worth. He said most of those homes were damaged, including at least a dozen that were destroyed.

Raul Rodriguez was among the lucky ones: His Habitat for Humanity home was still standing. The 42-year-old mechanic rode the storm out in a closet with his wife and three children as he heard the windows shattering outside. They emerged to see a heartbreaking scene.

“Injured people, bloody people, started coming to our house, asking us to call 911,” said Rodriguez. “My neighbors to the right, they lost everything.”