CLEBURNE (CBS 11 NEWS) – The massive clean up in the tornado torn town has begun. Several hundred people registered at the Church of Christ in Cleburne to volunteer to help some of the 600 families affected by the EF3 tornado.
The National Weather Service announced Friday the storm was a mile wide.
And it’s effects were easily seen.
Hundreds of homes had their roofs ripped off, debris was scattered everywhere and fences were down in many places.
The city’s curfew, from sundown to sun up, remained in effect Friday.
Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain offered a stern warning to potential looters Friday.
“If you’re thinking about picking up electronics or a new TV or some new furniture gratis from a citizen in our community, you can forget it. We have armed officers that are going to be patrolling and you need to go somewhere else,” Cain said.
Dozens of power crews lined the streets, repairing and replacing downed power lines.
School was cancelled Thursday and Friday, but students will head back to their classrooms Monday.
Some moms used the time off to their kids a lesson, that helping others is important.
Jessica Johnson brought her kids out near Lake Pat Cleburne to pick up debris.
“It’s my city and…my kids are out of school because of it, and I wanted them to come out here to help, too,” Johnson said.
Volunteers along Lakeshore Drive used saws to take condense and remove dozens of uprooted trees.
Dr. Alton Flynn, who lives on that street, was upstairs in his home, which now had no roof.
He was in his home when the storm blew through.
“My wife was yelling to me saying, ‘Quick! Quick! Get in the house!’ And we jumped behind the sofa and pulled the sofa covers, the cushions, and we covered up with those,” Flynn said.
When the tornado had left, Flynn couldn’t believe what he saw.
“The biggest shock of all was that the whole roof, I mean the whole second story was gone!” he said.
His house nearly completely destroyed, Dr. Flynn somehow remains in good spirits.
“God blessed us beyond words. We are not hurt and everybody is okay and that’s what counts,” he said. “Houses and buildings and bricks can be replaced but human life can’t.”
Perhaps it was his faith that saved him and his wife.
“All the windows in the living room were just plastered like an explosion and the glass was stuff in the sofas like daggers,” he said.
Flynn, his son and at least a dozen volunteers helped him sift through the rubble to salvage what they could.
“We have a bunch of wedding photos and newspaper clippings from when they were married,” said Chris Flynn, Dr. Flynn’s son.
Despite the circumstances, as they looked at the old photos and mementos, Dr. Flynn and his family were able to see the good in everything.
“These kinds of things are the things you run across. Things you would never again look at for the rest of your whole life but all of a sudden a tornado exposes them all,” Dr. Flynn said with a smile.
A curfew remained in effect for the city of Cleburne through Friday night and could possibly remain in force throughout the weekend. Mayor Scott Cain ordered the curfew and promised violators will be arrested and prosecuted.
Cain is also holding a town hall meeting for storm victims at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 18, at the intersection of Hyde Park and Longfellow. Updates on the cleanup progress and the opportunity to ask questions will be provided.
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