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Texas Tornado Victims Vow To Rebuild

May 18, 2013

By The Los Angeles Times

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On the limb of a barren tree in the tornado-devastated north Texas community of Rancho Brazos, an American flag flaps in the wind -- placed there by a firefighter.

"It`s symbolic of, `We`re here, we`re going to rebuild,`" said Sgt. Nathan Stringer, a Hood County sheriff`s spokesman. The tornado has "broken homes, but it hasn`t broken our will," he said.

A fierce series of twisters tore through the northern part of the state Wednesday, killing six people, injuring 53, leaving scores of damaged and destroyed houses and many people homeless.

The resolve to rebuild carries a special poignancy: Dozens of the damaged homes had been constructed by Hood County Habitat for Humanity, part of the international nonprofit group.

One newly built home was supposed to have its dedication ceremony Saturday at 1 p.m., said John Quilty, the executive director of Hood County Habitat for Humanity, which has been active in the community since the 1990s.

"That house was flattened," Quilty said. Volunteers for the organization will now be part of the cleanup effort, he said.

The dead were all found in the hard-hit Rancho Brazos Estates subdivision, five miles outside Granbury, a city of about 80,000 people about 40 miles south of Fort Worth.

The storm also caused damage in Cleburne, a town of 30,000 about 25 miles southeast of Granbury, and the small town of Millsap, about 40 miles west of Fort Worth. Tens of thousands of people in the region lost electricity when power lines went down.

On Friday, Rancho Brazos was still closed to residents as emergency crews continued working to cut power lines and shut off gas leaks. More than half of about 100 homes in the community damaged by storms are unlivable, said Anita Foster, chief communications officer for the Red Cross in the Dallas area.

Some buildings were ripped off their foundations, marked now only by a concrete slab.

"How quickly your life can change is the story we so often forget about," said Gov. Rick Perry, who toured the area Friday. In the last month, Perry has visited the devastation of a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, about 80 miles from Granbury.

Texas officials have begun work on a model for a more direct way to distribute resources and donations to disaster areas, Perry said.

Local churches and nonprofit organizations mobilized quickly in the aftermath of the storm. At the First Christian Church in Granbury, 41 people from the Rancho Brazos neighborhood took shelter the first night, Foster said.

There were still 31 people at the church Thursday night.

"It really does speak to the fact that the storm has left people with truly no place to go," Foster said

Local assistance agency Mission Granbury has begun to identify temporary housing for those displaced by the storm, Executive Director April Mitchell told the Los Angeles Times.

A more extensive assessment will take place over the weekend.

Rancho Brazos residents will be allowed to return to the neighborhood to search for belongings beginning Saturday morning.

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(c)2013 The Los Angeles Times

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Story image: Eric Montez cleans up his place in Granbury, Texas, Friday, May 17, 2013. On Wednesday an EF-4 tornado hit the small north Texas town. AP Photo/Mike Fuentes

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