By Greg Ritchie
HOUSTON COUNTY – It was a Monday night, March 21, 2022 when an EF2 tornado packing winds estimated above 120 miles per hour struck several parts of Houston County leaving in its wake several wounded people and damage – some of whose scars still show.
Even those unaffected by the tornadoes directly remember that night -a terrible thunderstorm with such high winds. It was not until the next morning when the damage revealed itself. All night first responders, electric workers, emergency management and volunteers surveyed the damage in awe – thankful the toll was not worse.
Although several were injured, some seriously, no fatalities stemmed from the touchdown. Around thirty structures were damaged with some – like the little gas station just north of Crockett on U.S. 287 – gone for good. Limbs and uprooted trees had to be removed from roadways and power lines repaired. Unfortunately, unlike hurricanes, there is no warning or prepare time. A similar or worse incident could strike at any time.
As crews worked to repair broken power lines, shocked residents gathered at the Crockett Civic Center seeking help. The community came together giving shelters, food, bottled water and sometimes, just a hug or a kind word. Well into the summer, children from Texas schools and the United Methodist Army came to the area to help remove debris and rebuild homes devastated by the storm.
As many reflected, we got off lucky. Even with damaged structures, cars, hours without power and the hundreds of pounds of debris removed by workers, it could have been worse. Striking around 10:45 p.m., many were fast asleep when the tornado touched down leaving little time for seeking shelter or protecting oneself.
Praise for the hardiness and community spirit for residents of Houston County came from far and wide and was well deserved. City of Crockett Administrator John Angerstein noted at the time the community did as well as could have been expected given the unexpected nature of such events.
“At this point, a tornado is one of the most impactful weather events. Unless you have a storm shelter, there is really not much you can do. This is where it decided to touch down. All of our crews were prepared. We had all of the equipment we needed, chainsaws and people lined up and ready to go, if it did hit our town. When it did, we mobilized to this location. We pushed trees out of the way and got people out their houses. We transported them to hospitals or to other family members. It went as smoothly as it could go in this type of emergency,” Angerstein said.
The same precautions still apply in one of these disasters and The Messenger hopes this one-year anniversary will serve as a good reminder to be prepared for these events. Downloading weather apps and monitoring media about inclement weather is always a good idea. Other cheap and easy ways to stay prepared include:
- Keep fresh batteries in your flashlights.
- Keep sturdy shoes or boots near your bed to avoid injury from debris.
- Keep something nearby to protect your head from flying debris.
- Keep 3 day supply of non perishable foods on hand.
- Keep 3 day supply of drinking water on hand.
- Practice tornado drills with your family.
- Keep a good stock of first aid supplies on hand (splinting and bleeding control).
- Establish and practice a communication plan to reach friends and family.
- Keep a change or two of clothing in a “go bag”.
- Keep a 3 day supply of prescription medications in your “go bag”.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbot came to Crockett after the tornado to applaud the efforts of the local governments and residents for their response saying at the time, “In typical Houston County fashion, many friends and family members are taking in others who are displaced from their homes (and are) loving, caring and supportive. That includes the Houston County Judge, the Houston County Sheriff, the Crockett Mayor, the Crockett City Administrator, the Crockett Police Chief, the Crockett Fire Chief, as well as State Sen. (Robert) Nichols and State Rep. (Trent) Ashby. This is a community where when disaster strikes, people come together and it is on display and will continue to be on display.”
In the end, Houston County Judge Jim Lovell thanked the support received from around the state. Lovell welcomed them to our area, although he regretted they had to come in such circumstances. Lovell summed up the resilience of the county who has – and will someday again – weather many storms of all kinds.
“I just can’t say enough about the people of Houston County and how resilient we are. It’s no big surprise though, because we were the first county established in Texas. Yes, we are resilient and yes, we will bounce back,” Judge Lovell said.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]