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Memorial For Victims Of 2015 Tornadoes Appears As Tragedy Reaches One-Year Mark

Lara Solt
KERA News special contributor
A house, a damaged tree and debris in a Rowlett neighborhood in February 2016, two months after the tornadoes. Explore more: Rebuildling A Life: A Year Later.

Five stories that have North Texas talking: The man hosting Richard Spencer at Texas A&M has been inviting such guests for years; the EPA says four Dallas-owned power plants need to reduce pollution; a 53-pound turtle was rescued from a drainage pipe; and more.

Last year, on the day after Christmas, a dozen tornadoes tore through North Texas, killing 13 people and damaging or destroying hundreds of homes. As the anniversary of the tragedy nears, a memorial has been erected off Interstate-30 and the President George Bush turnpike in Garland, WFAA reports. Nine people died while traveling on those roads during the storm, and there’s a wooden Christmas tree standing for each person and decorated with the details of their lives.  

It’s unclear who made the trees and how long they’ve been standing on the hill between the two highways. Neither the cities of Rowlett and Garland (where the tornadoes hit) nor the Texas Department of Transportation could take credit, according to WFAA. To learn more about the events of Dec. 26 and how survivors who lost their homes and their bearings are rebuilding their lives, explore KERA’s One Crisis Away project. [WFAA, KERA News]

  • Richard Spencer was invited to speak at Texas A&M University by fellow white nationalist, Preston Wiginton. Wiginton has been bringing incendiary guests to the College Station campus for years, according to the Texas Tribune, but without much turnout and against administrators’ wishes. Spencer, a graduate of St. Mark’s School in Dallas, has generated attention online for Nazi-like homages to Donald Trump at a conference in Washington. Space issues and security concerns have led A&M staff to move the speech to a larger space. The university has planned a “Aggies United” event at the same time Tuesday. [The Texas Tribune]


  • Four power plants owned by a Dallas company are exceeding sulfur dioxide emissions recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA notified the state that it needs to reduce pollution in six counties affected by emissions from Luminant plants — three located east of Dallas and one east of Austin, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Fuel Fix blog. Luminant says it’s operating in compliance with state and federal regulations, and the company thinks the models the EPA used to determine emission levels were inaccurate. Texas has its own air quality monitors that show no violations, but none of them were in the six counties. [The Houston Chronicle]


  • The U.S. Department of Education officials will tour Texas and take public comment on the state reportedly capping student enrollment in special education. Listening sessions will take place will in Houston, Dallas, Austin, El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley this month. Members of the public can leave online comments for department officials, too. In September, the Houston Chronicle reported that schools began denying special education services after the state imposed an 8.5 percent enrollment benchmark in 2004. [The Associated Press, KERA News]


  • A 53-pound snapping turtle is recovering at a Houston wildlife rehabilitation center after rescue crews saved it from a drainage pipe. The Houston SPCA says the alligator snapping turtle was found wedged Tuesday in the pipe in a new residential development near Hockley, Texas. Fire-rescue crews opened the pipe to remove the turtle, which had struggled to keep its head above water, the Associated Press reports. Several drowned alligator snapping turtles were found after the pipe was opened. The SPCA said it’s rehabilitating one other turtle with serious wounds. Both will be returned to the wild. [The Associated Press]
53-pound snapping #turtle, rescued from a drainage pipe in Texas, recovers at a Houston wildlife center. — AP Central U.S. (@APCentralRegion) December 1, 2016