Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

May 17, 2013

Cleburne declared disaster area after strong storms

Mineral Wells Index

— By Matt Smith | Lone Star News Group

Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain early Thursday morning declared a state of emergency and disaster in wake of damage caused by Wednesday night’s tornado and heavy rain. Cain said County Judge Roger Harmon did the same for the county.

“[State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, and State Rep. Rob Orr, R-Burleson,] are going to meet with the governor, maybe as we speak,” Cain said. “And I’m working with the mayor pro-tem of Granbury to coordinate efforts between our counties.”

Fortunately, Cain said, the tornadoes resulted in no fatalities or major injuries.

“We’ve had seven minor injury transports,” he said.

Police and firefighters from Cleburne and other county cities spent the night searching damaged neighborhoods for residents in need of help. The search often slowed due to flooding in several areas of town and tree-limb-blocked streets. Homes along Lakeshore Drive in the Winchester Addition and other west-side neighborhoods sustained heavy damage. Rescue workers continued their home-to-home search Thursday morning.

Fire trucks and police cars staged out of H-E-B’s parking lot overnight, coming and going as they responded to calls. Officials from Salvation Army Disaster Services out of Dallas arrived with food and other supplies as did an American Red Cross truck. Members of the Johnson County Emergency Support Services also set up in H-E-B’s parking lot to assist rescue workers and victims.

Officials opened the Cleburne Conference Center as an emergency shelter.

Koon and Kam Wu were the first to arrive.

“No, we couldn’t drive out,” Koon Wu said. “We’re very thankful for the firemen who broke through a window to get in the house. They said it’s not safe to stay here and helped us get out.”

Kam Wu described the tornado as a terrifying experience.

“We got in a closet downstairs,” Wu said. “We had to hold the doorknob really tight. When we got out broken glass had flown around everywhere.”

Koon Wu said the roof of their second floor is gone including the whole side wall of their master bedroom.

“The brick on the left, south and west side looked like it was falling off,” Wu said.

A fountain and tree in their yard also sustained heavy damage, he said.The couple said the storm caught them by surprise.

“We were watching TV and had the weather radio on,” Koon Wu said. “Five minutes before we were outside looking across the lake because we’d heard about a possible funnel cloud but everything was still and calm and we thought the storm had probably gone by. All the sudden the wind started to blow so we hid downstairs in the closet probably a minute before it blew in.”

Kam Wu counted her blessings.

“We’re lucky we weren’t upstairs asleep already.”

Cain said several others came and went to the conference center early Thursday morning.

“We’re probably going to see a lot more activity there today because we’re setting that up as a central location for people to go to,” Cain said. “Right now though our main focus is to help anyone who needs a place to stay.”

Cleburne resident Sid Davis said he heard the tornado come through, but it appeared to cause only minor tree damage to his property.

“I got some hail and minor tree damage,” Davis said. “...I’m a little north of the hardest hit area and think I should be OK. My power went out before it came through. I was outside when the power went out and thought, ‘OK, time to get inside.’ I heard it go though, sounded like a freight train.”

Davis made his way to his parents’ house in the Winchester neighborhood.

“It looked like it zipped right down the middle of Browning Street and just ripped trees up all over,” Davis said. “Looks like the majority of houses there have damage. My parent’s home has holes in the roof where wind just ripped shingles and turbines off. I saw power lines and cables down laying across Gerard. Someone said a wall was knocked down, but I didn’t see it.

Wasn’t really looking though, I was just trying to get to my parents and kids.”

Davis described several homes on the south end of Lakeshore Drive as “hit hard, just smashed.”

Cleburne ISD canceled Thursday classes. Smith Middle School and Gerard Elementary School sustained damage.

City Manager Rick Holden said water service remains operational, although it’s on emergency power. Holden said the system is not contaminated and continues to operate at full pressure.