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Storm Survivors From Canton Make Sense Of The Tornadoes, Begin To Clean Up

Four people died, dozens were hurt and thousands of homes felt the impact of tornadoes that tore through East Texas Saturday night. The folks that bore the brunt of the storms were in and around the town of Canton, an hour east of Dallas.


Cason Cole, 18, was at his friend’s trailer when they heard the rain and lightning. He says they didn’t think the tornado would be “as bad as it was.” So they decided to go for a drive. He was in one car. His friend in another.

“And it’s sprinkling a little bit and then like in a matter of like probably 30 seconds, it just gets gray because of how hard the rain’s comin’ down and we’re watching the trees in front of us – they’re hittin’ the road, then comin’ back up.”

His friend tried to swerve out of the way and ended up in the ditch. The storm was getting worse. Cole and his friend were terrified.

“We didn’t know what to do and then the trees they were falling down and stuff, so we put it in reverse and we’re starting to back up," he says. "Then we hear this loud sound and a tree had fallen behind us. So we’re like trapped right in there in this little like gap.”

When they finally got out their cars, the road had flooded. The water was up to their waists. He knew they shouldn’t have been there, but he’s also glad they didn’t stay at his friend’s place. It was demolished.


I was really just impressed and in awe that so much nature could cause so much destruction and yet still leave so much behind.

The tornadoes that ripped through Van Zandt County tossed cars and trucks at a dealership off Interstate 20, uprooted trees and mangled metal. Gov. Greg Abbott estimated 5,000 addresses were affected.

Next door, units at My Storage Place in Canton, were torn apart, leaving mattresses, clothes, toys and a lone propane tank sitting out.

Credit Stella M. Chávez / KERA News
A destroyed storage unit in Van Zandt County.

Paige Redding was there cleaning out her unit.

“I have a lot of water damage in mine, as you can see my Andy Warhols are ruined but that's OK, just stuff,” she says.

Her friend David Milbauer was taken aback by the tornado’s power.

“I was really just impressed and in awe that so much nature could cause so much destruction and yet still leave so much behind.”

One of the first things he noticed when he walked up to the storage facilities? Sitting in the middle of the pavement, a perfectly intact light bulb.

Read KERA's full coverage from the deadly tornadoes.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.