Hundreds of Lancaster residents are still waiting to return home. The EF-2 tornado that hit Tuesday afternoon destroyed homes and property in the northwest corridor of the city. Homeowners want to get in and assess the damage, but city officials say to keep out. KERA’s Jacqueline Fellows reports.
Sixty year-old Johnny Daniels was at home when a tornado with winds of up to 130 miles per hour tore through his one-story brick home on Sunny Meadows Road. Daniels took cover in the bathtub.
Daniels: The window crashed, the doors started floppin’ and stuff and all the glass in the house is broke out. It moved furniture around, shifted the whole house around. I was just lucky to come out of there.
Daniels’ house is in one of the hardest hit areas of Lancaster. He was hoping to get a damage estimate from his insurance company, but couldn’t because the whole neighborhood is on lockdown – no one in or out.
And it’s easy to see why. Large tree limbs and twisted metal block the front doors of many homes. Shingles, nails, and broken 2x4’s line the streets. On Pepperidge Drive, dump trucks roll in and out of the neighborhood full of debris. Standing near a truck ready to go, Lancaster City Manager Opal Mauldin says they are moving as fast as they can.
Mauldin: It’s difficult to estimate how long it’s gonna take to get something like this cleared up. You’ve seen what three or four dump trucks in the last five minutes come through clearing debris out of the roadway? And, that’s just one roadway.”
There are some houses that are standing upright without much damage at all. But the city wants to make sure those are structurally safe before allowing anyone inside. Citing the hundreds of homes damaged by the tornado, Mayor Marcus Knight put out a call yesterday for help.
Knight: We are in need of certified building inspectors that can assist to go in and make a determination on the level of damage. I really have to stress, folks, the patience for our residents. We know people are anxious about getting in and seeing their property and what have you but at this time we need to make sure that safety is the utmost importance.
Mayor Knight says police officers from more than a dozen cities are helping local police patrol the neighborhoods. Even though the city is asking residents in the damaged neighborhoods to leave, some are staying put. The Dallas County Sheriff’s office says they will not force people out of their homes, but once they leave they can not go back.