The Lone Star State is no stranger to big tornadoes, and residents east of the Dallas-Ft. Worth area recently got an up-close-and-personal look at a Texas tornado as April came to a close. Weeks later, the area is still in recovery mode.
On April 30, at least seven twisters struck area counties, carving paths of destruction and debris that spanned 50 miles, multiple news organizations reported. Early estimates had some of the tornadoes measured as EF-3s, meaning they produced wind gusts between 158 and 207 miles per hour, with one of them an EF-4. Tornadoes of this magnitude result in wind speeds between 208 and 260 mph.
Canton Mayor Lou Ann Everett described the situation as fluid in the immediate aftermath of the tornado disaster.
"We have at least four fatalities," Everett told reporters at the time, and that total has since been raised to five. "We have 49 tornado-related injuries that were transported to local hospitals."
"The Texas tornadoes produced $150 million in damage."
In addition to the casualties, the string of deadly twisters has led to significant amounts of damage. The Insurance Council of Texas believes the tornadoes that touched down – which also hit bordering states – resulted in at least $150 million in property losses. Dozens of residential and commercial buildings are included among the wreckage.
Governor requests federal disaster assistance
The losses are so significant, Governor Greg Abbott has asked the government for federal assistance.
"As the people of Van Zandt County and surrounding areas begin rebuilding their lives following the recent deadly tornadoes, these disaster loans will go a long way in aiding in that effort," Abbott said in an official statement. "I'm asking the Small Business Administration to move quickly in granting my request and thank them for their continued support."
The SBA granted Abbott's loan request for Van Zandt County, which also includes emergency funding for neighboring counties, among them Kaufman, Rains, Smith, Henderson, and Hunt.
Everett told local ABC News affiliate WFAA-TV that area residents are in for a long, drawn-out rebuilding process.
"It's just overwhelming how much damage, we have, and how long it's going to take to rebuild and how much money it's gonna take," Everett said.
The recovery period will particularly hard on Canton residents, which was most heavily impacted by the wild weather. Several residents don't have homeowners insurance, preventing them from accessing the capital they need to get things back to normal, WFAA-TV reported.
Kind-hearted students of Canton are doing what they can to provide assistance.
"I feel like I'm helping for the greater good of the community," Jackson Heard, sophomore at Canton High School, told the local TV news affiliate. "It's definitely brought people together, it's really a hopeful feeling throughout all of East Texas, it's like one big family."
Classes were canceled for several days after the devastating twister, but they resumed on May 3, even though hundreds of residents were still without electricity, according to CBS DFW.
"All 50 states have experienced tornadoes."
Every season is tornado season
No corner of the earth experiences tornadoes quite like North America does. Twisters can occur in any part of the country, but historically, they've predominantly affected the Southern Plains. However, they've also been reported in all 50 states, according to the National Weather Service. Some of the more devastating variety have struck Texas, including Waco in 1953 and Goliad in 1902, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. More recently, Texas' neighbor to the north, Oklahoma, was hit with what is believed to be the largest tornado on record. Its width spanned 2.6 miles and left the town of Reno in tatters. May 31 will be the four-year anniversary of the multiple-vortex twister.
When do tornadoes occur? Unlike hurricanes, which usually happen during the early summer to late fall, twisters tend to be more common in spring and summer. However, they can break out anywhere, at any time. In addition to updating your homeowners insurance policy, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency's website for tips on how to prepare. Knowing what to do before, during, and in the aftermath can spare you from experiencing significant losses.