May 30, 2013

CWS’s Don Tatlock: Home in Texas When the Tornadoes Hit

Granbury, TX, tornado destruction
Three tornadoes struck the town of Granbury, Texas, on May 15, 2013, causing massive destruction. Photo: Don Tatlock/CWS

CWS Central America and Caribbean Liaison Don Tatlock lives in Granbury, Texas.  His work requires frequent travel to the region, but he was in Granbury on May 15 when as many as three tornados hit the town. 

“We heard the siren and the televised warnings,” he said.  “My wife and I were home and took shelter in the bathroom.  All we heard were the heavy winds and hail.  We feel very fortunate that our home and vehicles were not affected.”

At the same time, their daughter Sarah, 23, and son Kevin, 21, were out with the First Christian Church youth group.  As the tornados menaced, “they needed to get to a safe location.  Our church is a Red Cross shelter and right away started receiving people and sheltering them.”

Tatlock volunteered at the shelter to lend a hand and to serve as an English-Spanish translator.  “Between 20 and 30 people slept at the church each night.  At first, it was chaotic; then the situation calmed. The last families left over Memorial Day weekend.  Others didn’t sleep at the church but came to receive water, food and clothing.”

In Granbury, between 110 and 120 homes were damaged or destroyed by the tornados – about half of them built by Habitat for Humanity, said Carol Davidson, Habitat’s Hood County, Texas, Executive Director.  Only a handful of Habitat homes escaped any damage; more than 20 were “totaled,” she said.

Most of Granbury’s displaced are still living with other families, in hotels, or rental property, or in shelters.  But little by little, they are starting to return home to assess the damage.

CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets being delivered
200 CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets were delivered to First Christian Church in Granbury. Then Habitat for Humanity took them to a Habitat house amidst the tornado damage for distribution to Habitat and all other homeowners needing one. Photo: Don Tatlock/CWS

“The tornados and rain have left things a mess for a lot of people,” Tatlock said.  In response, CWS offered and First Christian Church agreed to receive 200 CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets for Granbury.  On May 28, the buckets arrived.  They were offloaded at First Christian Church, then transferred to a Habitat house in the affected area.  Distribution will begin Saturday, June 1.

Tatlock said he planned to help distribute the buckets.  Besides being practical, CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets, other CWS Kits and CWS Blankets “give recipients a boost, a sense of joy knowing there are people out there always to help in times of crisis and need,” he said.  “Receiving something when you lose everything is an emotional boost.  It’s empowering.”

Affirmed Davidson, “As the families move back home, they will have nothing.  Cleaning products are the first thing they’ll need as soon as they walk through the door.  Our goal is to get a CWS Emergency Cleanup Bucket to everyone who needs one, whether they are a Habitat family or not. 

“Most of us don’t like to think about cleaning our houses, but these people will start to feel at home again when they start cleaning,” she said.  “They want their houses back and their lives back.  As people come home, we can welcome them with a CWS bucket.”