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Texas tornado devastation includes Habitat homes

GRANBURY, Texas — Habitat for Humanity spent years in a North Texas subdivision, helping build many of the 110 homes in the low-income area. But its work was largely undone during an outbreak of 13 tornadoes Wednesday night that killed six people and injured dozens.

On Thursday, authorities combed through debris in Granbury, while residents waited to see what was left of their homes. Witnesses described the two badly hit neighborhoods as unrecognizable, with homes ripped from foundations and others merely rubble.

Granbury, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth, bore the brunt of the damage. The National Weather Service's preliminary estimate was that tornado had wind speeds between 166 mph and 200 mph. Other tornadoes spawned from the violent spring storm damaged nearby Cleburne and Millsap.

"I tell you, it has just broken my heart," said Habitat for Humanity volunteer Elsie Tallant, who helped serve lunch every weekend to those building the homes in a Granbury neighborhood and those poised to become homeowners.

Half of one home was torn away while the other half was still standing, glasses and vases intact on shelves. Trees and debris were scattered across yards, and fences were flattened.

The weather service said the preliminary storm estimate for the Granbury tornado was an EF-4, based on the Fujita tornado damage scale. An EF-5 is the most severe.

Of the homes in the Rancho Brazos Estates, 61 were built by Habitat for Humanity, according to Gage Yeager, executive director of Trinity Habitat for Humanity in Fort Worth. He said most of those homes were damaged; at least a dozen were destroyed.

Raul Rodriguez was among the lucky ones: His Habitat for Humanity home was still standing. The 42-year-old mechanic rode the storm out in a closet with his wife and three children as he heard the windows shattering outside, but realized their fortune when they emerged to see a heartbreaking scene.

"Injured people, bloody people, started coming to our house, asking us to call 911," said Rodriguez. His own home had only shattered windows, lost roof shingles and a collapsed garage.

"My neighbors to the right, they lost everything," he said.

Texas tornado devastation includes Habitat homes 05/16/13 [Last modified: Thursday, May 16, 2013 10:49pm]
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