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Housing greatest need after tornadoes
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
A March 19 tornado caused extensive damage to this southwest Bexar County home.
Government and spiritual leaders in Medina County all agree that temporary housing is the greatest need among those who were displaced by the tornadoes that ravaged the area March 19.
While many news reports have indicated that Devine was dealt a crushing blow, City Administrator Gary Pelech said the city did not take a direct hit. Pelech, who worked as Floresville’s city manager before working in Devine, said much of the damage was concentrated in an area approximately a quarter mile from the city limits.
Pastor Ed Dougherty, who chairs the Devine Ministerial Alliance, said that 26 homes near Devine, Natalia, and Pearson have been deemed unlivable due to the damage resulting from the two tornadoes that roared through the area. According to the Austin-San Antonio National Weather Service Forecast Office, the Natalia tornado was classified as an EF-1 on the Enhanced Fujita scale. It laid a path of destruction 7 miles long and 50 yards wide, and had estimated peak winds of 110 mph.
The tornado near Devine, which was classified as an EF-2, had estimated peak winds of up to 115 mph and had a damage path 3-1/2 miles long and a quarter-mile wide.
Further investigation concluded that two additional tornadoes occurred in southwestern Bexar County and on the northeast side of San Antonio. Meteorologist Joe Baskin said a tornado rumored to have touched down near Runge did not occur, as the damage was more indicative of straight-line winds.
Representatives from the San Antonio chapters of the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army and the Devine Ministerial Alliance were among those who sprang into action to assist residents once the winds died down. But the greatest response, said Medina County Judge Jim Barden, was from neighbors helping neighbors and strangers who lent their assistance.
“One lady who came to the shelter said, ‘There were people in my yard I didn’t know,’” Dougherty said. “‘They were in my yard picking up debris.’”
Now that much of the larger debris has been removed or destroyed, smaller debris remains. While teams are scheduled to perform some of the work, additional volunteers are welcomed, Dougherty said.
Those displaced by the storms have had temporary accommodations from family or friends, or by one of the emergency shelters established in places such as the Devine Community Center. As the rebuilding effort continues, Dougherty said the need for long-term shelter will become more apparent.
“We have no rentals available in the area,” he said. “The oil-field boom south of us has gobbled up our rental properties.”
Barden said local officials will be working with state officials for more permanent housing solutions. Dougherty said the alliance plans to solicit larger organizations with a request for travel trailers that can be placed on residents’ properties while they rebuild.
Despite the devastation to property, Barden said there only were eight documented cases of injuries, none of which was life-threatening. There were no fatalities.
Anyone wishing to offer assistance to the ongoing tornado relief efforts can call Dougherty at 210-573-6448.
March 29 storms
Another band of storms -- which brought rain, thunder, lightning, and hail -- bulldozed its way through South Central Texas in the early morning hours of March 29 and led to flooding for some areas of Karnes County.
Baskin said the highest rain total was reported 2.3 miles north northwest of Runge, where 7.53 inches fell. There were 6.22 inches of rain reported 7.25 miles south of Yoakum. Floresville, he said, only received “slightly above 1 inch.”
Waterways near Runge rose to heights not seen in quite some time. Baskin said the San Antonio River -- which has a normal height of 11 to 13 feet -- rose to 30 feet. The Ecleto Creek, which usually reaches 1 to 2 feet, rose to 18.9 feet at the climax of the storm.
Karnes County Judge Barbara Shaw said March 30 that there were numerous road closures due to flooding. Karnes City was without electricity for several hours because of lightning damaging transformers. Internet service to all county offices was not expected to be restored until at least April 2.
Shaw praised the quick mobilization by area fire departments, police departments, the Karnes County Sheriff’s Office, and the Karnes County Emergency Management Agency. She said there were no injuries and just one report of a high-water rescue.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
•American Red Cross, 210-224-5151. www.redcross.org
•Salvation Army, 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769), www.disaster.salvationarmyusa.org
•Pastor Ed Dougherty, Devine Ministerial Alliance, 210-573-6448
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