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April 3, 2013

Tornadoes struck area one year ago

GREENVILLE — An outbreak of tornadoes crossed North Texas one year ago today, leaving a wide swath of damage, including multiple homes along the Hunt/Rockwall county line.

Hunt County Emergency Management Coordinator Richard Hill said there is one important lesson everyone should have learned from the disaster.

“Be prepared,” Hill said. “It may be another 20 years before a tornado hits Hunt County. We could have three this year.”

The National Weather Service reported a total of 16 confirmed tornadoes struck North Texas on the afternoon of April 3, including at least three in Hunt County.

— According to the agency, tornado number five occurred near Forney, in Kaufman County. The tornado produced EF-3 damage, stretching over eight miles, and the width was approximately 150 yards.

— Tornado number six occurred near Royse City, beginning in Rockwall County before moving northeast into Hunt County. The tornado produced EF-2 damage along 3.1 mile path which was approximately 400 yards wide.

— Tornado number seven was observed by several storm spotters approximately six miles south of Greenville. This tornado produced EF-0 damage over open country along a half-mile path which was 50 yards wide.  

— Tornado number eight was observed by law enforcement officials four miles south of Cumby, in Hunt County. This tornado produced EF-0 damage over open country along a quarter- mile path which was approximately 25 yards wide.

— Tornado number 16 occurred near the community of Poetry, along the Kaufman/Rockwall/Hunt County line. Investigators believe the storm was associated with the same supercell that produced the EF-3 tornado in Forney. The EF-0 tornado near Poetry developed shortly after, to the northeast of Forney. The path length was one half mile, and the width was 75 yards.

Despite the damage, no one died during the storms.

“When the bad weather started, we opened the emergency operations center in Commerce,” Hill said, noting the weather conditions were dangerous throughout the day. “At one point on Interstate 30, I actually thought my county pickup was going to blow over.”

Hill said the best way to prepare for a chance of another tornado is to be warned of the approach of severe weather. Hill noted there are a number of ways to keep track of changing weather conditions, but he recommended the purchase of a weather radio,

“For the people out in the unincorporated areas of the county, I think that is the best investment they can make,” Hill said.

Unlike the radios of the past, Hill said the units which cost about $30 can be set to activate only when a specific zip code is threatened.

“They are much more localized,” Hill said. “Everyone needs to have one.”

And the radios work off of batteries if the power to the home fails.

“Change that battery just like you do your smoke detector,” Hill said.

Hill said families should also prepare an emergency plan to be used in the event of a disaster, which includes supplies, a meeting place and emergency contacts.

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