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ROWLETT (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas Senator Ted Cruz took a detour from his Presidential campaign so he could see up close parts of Rowlett devastated by the EF-4 tornado that blew through here Saturday night.
Along Harbor Drive, Senator Cruz met Lisa Palmer and asked how she was doing.
Palmer said, “We’re doing ok, we’ve been better.”
She told him the tornado slammed through their house and neighborhood 20 minutes after they left to get dinner. “Went up to Taco Bueno, we are now calling it Tornado Tacos.”
Somehow, the twister left untouched one small thing that’s had a big impact.
Palmer said, “The back of our house is gone but in my entry way, I left a candle burning on an antique piece of my mom’s and when I walked in, my candle was burning. But the candle was burning, so we used it as a flashlight.”
In all, the tornado damaged 1000 homes in this city, including 350 it demolished.
Rowlett’s mayor Todd Gottel led Senator Cruz, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and other elected leaders on the tour through the neighborhoods and to a donation center.
Tommy Burkley told Cruz the experience has been overwhelming. “I’m really just thankful we were able to come here and get the help, I’m really at a loss for words.”
Senator Cruz told him, “Our prayers are with you, and asked him if he was home when the tornado struck.
Burkley said, “Yes sir. The whole house shook.”
He says he and his family went downstairs and huddled in a first floor bathroom.
They weren’t hurt.
Dretha Burris, an associate pastor with the First Rowlett United Methodist Church showed the officials all of the items stacked on tables that North Texans donated.
She said, “It’s definitely all a community effort.”
Afterwards, Senator Cruz praised the entire local efforts from city and county leaders to members of the larger Texas family. “It is remarkable to see how Texans respond in the face of disaster, in the face of tragedy. Over and over again, Texans come together.”
He said the federal government will do its part. “I’m hopeful it’ll proceed appropriately and my office is certainly working with local officials, state officials, to ensure the federal government carries out its responsibilities.”
Attorney General Ken Paxton told reporters his office will be looking for storm-related fraud and price-gouging.
Back at the Palmer’s house, Lisa’s husband Bill says he’s “Just happy to be here. Very lucky, lucky in a lot of ways.”
He says while his house still has all four walls still standing, his neighbors fared much worse.
The homes on each side of him are destroyed.
The one across the street is now a pile of rubble.
Palmer says their insurance company has been helpful, and they intend to rebuild.
He says he can’t help but think of their night out for dinner. “Had we come back or grabbed our food and come home instead of eating it there, we’d been on the road in all of this.”
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