Saturday afternoon of First Monday Weekend, the weather folks had predicted big thunderstorms. That is not good news. We expected a crowd of about 150,000 in our town of less than 5000. About noon, it looked like the real McCoy and the crowd started to head home as it was looking scary in the southern part of the county. Some vendors started packing and heading out, but there were about 4000 vendors and 20,000 shoppers still here and RV parks were full.
Our police, fire and first responders are of the best in the country. At 4:45 PM they hit the sirens and went into full alert. The grounds got flooded with the downpour. There was nothing for the folks to do but get wet, pray and brace for the rain.
Between 4:15PM and 7:30 PM Saturday April 30,2017 there were at least five tornados and they hit one after another. About 1500 homes were affected with winds up to 140 mph. There we 52,000 without power. There were four killed: dozens hurt, livestock lost, trees and buildings leveled. Governor Abbot declared it a disaster.
Just before 5 PM Ann and I hunkered down in the hall with water, power bars, flashlight, and two fully charged smartphone, blankets and rain gear. No train came at us, just lots of rain. Smartphones do save lives. Mark the weatherman was live on our phone and so was the radar and the warnings from our first responders. There was no power. When we “unhunkered” about 6:15PM. It was black dark for the next 12 hours.
The smartphones were our eyes and ears until daylight and still is our main way of communicating in the county.
When it looked like there was to be a tornado hit the ground in the county below us, some highly trained first responders headed to the Canton High School to set up the triage. Within minutes the disaster teams from the power companies were getting the equipment ready at different locations to get here by daylight. It was worse than predicted so the crews that replace the big lines and transformers were already loading big trucks with big stuff to get here at dawn. My County Commission had reported that those big poles looked like spaghetti. That work order made sense to them and here they come.
Dogs cattle and exotic animals we injured, shook up and lost. Here comes the AGGIE Vet Disaster Team. They were busy in the county where there was a lot of damage and injury. Yep, smartphones and great first responders save lives.
Everybody needs water and food. About 3AM at Brookshire there was a crew unloading big 18 wheelers with ice and water and trucks getting it to all parts of the county. Walmart and Brookshire’s were getting frozen foods to where it need to go to “feed the multitude”. Red Cross, salvation Army and disaster teams from everywhere were here doing the great work they do.
A Van Zandt Relief fund is established for all who want to make a monetary donation.
First State Bank of Ben Wheeler, Canton Texas Branch: Van Zandt County Tornado Relief Fund Account Number:4413270
This bad day has become the MIRACLE AT FIRST MONDAY