How East Texans cope with post-storm damage

Storm sirens blare and winds howl as television news anchors confirm the worst for Smith County residents: An active tornado has touched the ground, leaving wreckage in its wake. 

On the edge of Tornado Alley, East Texans are familiar with this form of Mother Nature’s wrath. On April 12, a storm damaged portions of Tyler’s Azalea and Charnwood districts. Sarah Ray saw the damage firsthand when a neighbor’s tree fell in her backyard. 

Powerful storm winds knocked down a tree in the Charnwood District April 12, 2022. 📷 all photos by Jude Ratcliff

“I was sitting outside in the garage,” Ray said. “I thought it was thunder and walked outside. [The tree] was completely obliterated. It broke the chain link fence, and it killed one of our little plum trees. It came about three feet away from the house and actually hit the side of our awning over the back patio.”

The storm came at night after some residents had already gone to sleep. “It was dark,” Ray said. “I really couldn’t see much. I could only see as far as I could in my yard with the porch light. I kept waiting for the sun to come up so I could see what actually happened.” 

David Allen, a Lindale resident, experienced a similar occurrence in 2016 when a tornado destroyed his house.

The historic Connally home suffered from exterior damage from the April 12 storm. Built in 1906, the house underwent restoration in 1978.

“Growing up, we did not have all these tornadoes around here,” Allen said. “If we did, they were more like straight line winds. There were warnings, but I was always the one that never paid them a bit of attention. I would just sit back and let them happen.”

Allen was working at the clothing store he owned in Lindale when the sirens began to go off. Though his shop was spared of damage, his home was lost in the tornado.

“It was gone completely,” Allen said. “The frame of the trailer was probably 150 to 200 yards off in the woods. I did not get a good view until the next morning. I got up and came back to clean. It was just thrown in pieces. If you did not know there was a house there before, you would have never known it was there.”

An Azalea District home reduced to debris after the April 12 storm. Some residents are awaiting word from their insurance companies before beginning to rebuild.

When something as traumatic as losing a home occurs, it is easy to become desperate. Allen advises those who have shared his experience while enduring the recent episodes of severe weather to remain hopeful and to rebuild from what they lost.

“These people on TV, they are crying, they are just devastated,” Allen said. “And I do not blame them. It is a horrible thing to happen,” he said.

“But you are alive. You are here, you and your family are okay. This will pass.”

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