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Texas tornado outbreak: Jacksboro residents dig out of debris and damaged homes

A destroyed living room has only two walls standing, with no back wall, so you can see the house across the street. People are cleaning up piles of debris and broken glass.
Miranda Suarez
/
KERA
What was once Frances Wilson's living room stands open to the elements on March 22, 2022. Wilson's home was destroyed in the tornado that hit Jacksboro the day before.

An EF-3 tornado ripped the roof off of Jacksboro’s local high school and damaged nearby homes Monday afternoon. On Tuesday, residents did their best to clean up.

The roar of chainsaws was constant in Jacksboro on Tuesday as residents and work crews cleared tree branches and twisted metal from the yards of battered homes.

A tornado hit Jacksboro Monday afternoon, but there were no major injuries or deaths, officials said. Statewide, more than a dozen injuries and one death were reported.

The EF-3 peeled off the high school gym’s roof, leaving behind bent, exposed metal rafters. The basketball hoops were somehow still hanging on as the ceiling lights dangled in the wind. Maximum wind speeds reached 150 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service Fort Worth.

Bits of roof insulation clogged the trees near the high school and further down North Main Street, where the elementary school also suffered damage. A bus had flipped over and lay crushed in the parking lot.

Ninety-year-old Frances Wilson spent 30 years in her house next to Jacksboro Elementary School, but on Tuesday morning, she planned to leave it forever. The house's back wall gaped open and chunks of the roof were gone.

"I don’t think it’s actually hit me, that I don’t have a home,” Wilson said.

A young woman with red hair looks down on a sitting older woman in a destroyed home.
Miranda Suarez
/
KERA
Frances Wilson, right, lives in one of the about 80 homes damaged in a suspected tornado in Jacksboro, Texas on March 21, 2022.

A crew of Wilson’s family members picked their way over a carpet full of broken glass, cleaning up and moving out her furniture.

Wilson survived the storm without a scratch by sheltering in her shower with her 13-year-old Shih Tzu, who is also fine, she said. She plans to stay with relatives and later find a new place to live.

“I don’t plan to build back,” Wilson said.

Next door, a yellow front-loader cleared debris from Becky Blakley’s yard. Although some windows were blown out, Blakley said she was one of the lucky ones, because her house still has a roof.

“It’s like a war zone,” Blakley said. “I hate to say that, but there’s a lot of damage.”

Tornadoes broke out across the state on Monday. As of Tuesday, the National Weather Service Fort Worth had confirmed 11 areas of tornado damage in its region and was still investigating several other possible tornadoes.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed a disaster declaration on Tuesday after "heavy rain, large hail, damaging winds, and multiple tornadoes” in 16 counties in North, Central and East Texas.

Jon Zeitler, the science and operations manager with the National Weather Service covering the Austin-San Antonio area, told The Texas Newsroom that this band of storms was “a pretty rare event” that might happen every 15 or 20 years.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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