(ROCKWALL, TX – Dec. 29, 2015) First responders of the Rowlett and Rockwall communities continue to band together to help the victims of a devastating EF4-classified tornado that ripped through Garland, Rowlett and Sunnyvale on Saturday night.
In wake of the destructive storm which blew through the night after Christmas and left several homes, businesses and apartment complexes in ruins, Rockwall police and fire units, along with Rockwall CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), were called in to aid the City of Rowlett in clearing roads of debris, search and rescue operations, and to shut down any gas leaks in the area of between Dalrock Road and Scenic Road near Highway 66. According to Rockwall Fire Inspector/Investigator Paul Ayres, several homes were completely flattened in the area, although a few houses were miraculously left standing with hardly any damage at all.
“We literally had a house that was completely flattened, with nothing left of it, and then two houses down there was a house still standing with Christmas decorations in the front yard,” Ayres said.
The communities of Royse City and Fate also sent over engine companies to work in the area of Lakeview Parkway which also saw damage from the storm.
According to Ayres, many within the Rockwall community reached out to see what they could do to aid the victims.
“We set up a volunteer center here temporarily at The Center in Rockwall on Saturday night because we were getting such an influx of people wanting to volunteer,” Ayres said. “But we ended up keeping it closed Sunday until the state can come in, and hopefully their going to open one up here pretty soon.”
As of Monday, Ayres said they were still waiting to get back details on where and when the volunteer center will be set up. He said Rockwall CERT will hold off for the next few days to allow emergency management to game plan how they want to approach the situation and prioritize as a city, and that they’re looking at getting CERT back in Wednesday or Thursday to help Rowlett emergency management with debris removal operations.
Rockwall Fire Chief Mark Poindexter said the recovery process for homeowners who lost their homes will be a long one, but that first responders within Rockwall County will continue to help the City of Rowlett in any way possible.
“We’re here to assist upon their request for any help,” Poindexter said. “Rockwall has extended to the Rowlett mayor, city manager, police and fire chiefs that whatever resources they need from Rockwall, we’ll be glad to try and assist them any way we can.”
While the storm’s destruction has left many of the surviving victims in a state of shock and with a feeling of helplessness, the charitable and neighborly spirit of the Rowlett and Rockwall communities has never wavered, with many folks reaching out with a helping hand for those affected by the storm. For those wishing to learn how to help their neighbor in these kinds of disaster-type situations, Rockwall CERT will hold a Basic CERT Training course on Jan. 16 and Jan. 23 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (both days). Curriculum includes disaster preparedness, fire safety, controlling utilities, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, introduction to incident command system, disaster psychology, and terrorism response.
Those who complete the course are also encouraged to join CERT, although it’s not required. To register for the course, complete the following form:
Story and photos by Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News staff writer.
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