Cyclone Road


Saturday, September 30, 2006

Footage from mine and Eric Nguyen's chase on May 9th will appear on several of the episodes of this program. I'm happy to hear HGTV donated some money to the families and assisted in their recovery.

From the Dallas Morning News:

Cameras follow as families bounce back from tornado

Westminster residents rebuilding after May 9 tornado are the focus of miniseries

08:59 AM CDT on Saturday, September 30, 2006

By LAUREN D'AVOLIO / The Dallas Morning News

WESTMINSTER – Bursts of lightning illuminated the sky over this provincial city one night in May. Derik Kendrick stared as a tornado swallowed the horizon.

Mr. Kendrick, his wife and two sons huddled together in his parents' laundry room as the minute-long calamity destroyed their house 500 feet away.

"We wouldn't be here right now, that's for sure. We're standing on what it would have been after the tornado," Mr. Kendrick said, walking on a vacant foundation from their onetime kitchen, then through a former bathroom. "There's no way we could have survived it."

An elderly couple and a teenage boy were killed May 9 when a twister touched down that night.

A day after the tornado tore through this rural part of Collin County, an unusual visitor came calling: Home and Garden Television. The cable network persuaded the Kendricks and fellow Westminster victims Lance and Cheryl Hearnsberger, Phyllis and Roger Kohls and Frances Fonsville to let camera crews chronicle life after the violent storm.

The five-week miniseries, Picking Up the Pieces, begins at 9 p.m. Sunday.

"We knew we could have it for our memories," Mrs. Kendrick said. "We knew it'd be fun to have."

Crews will continue following the families through mid-October to post-tornado milestones, like appointments with architects and shopping for furniture.

The Kendricks are concentrating on their new home. Since May, they have lived in a converted barn and a hotel, and now reside in a 36-by-8-foot travel trailer.

Before the tornado, they were planning to move to a new house – but were forced to build sooner than expected. Mr. Kendrick said his family hopes to ditch the trailer in two weeks and move into their 2,200-square-foot abode.

"Home isn't your home, because it can go away in a second," Mr. Kendrick said. "Home is, to us, the four of us together."

Melissa Sykes, senior vice president of original programming, said Picking Up the Pieces is an extraordinary journey because the crews stayed with the families as they tried to regroup their lives. All families received $6,000 from the network.

"It was a dramatic story," she said. "When you go in, you don't know what you're going to find. You don't know who's going to open their hearts, their homes and lives to you."

Mr. and Mrs. Kohls, 72 and 67, respectively, built their dream retirement home three years ago. Mrs. Kohls said it was "a devastating shock" to realize they had nothing after the tornado tore their home apart. But their focus has been on recovery.

"Physically, we're just about completely healed," she said. Mr. Kohls spent eight days in the hospital with two severed tendons in his right arm, and she had surgery to remove debris from a hipbone. "Mentally, there are some good days and bad days."

The Kohls initially shared an apartment with their son in Plano. In July, they moved into a rental home in McKinney. They're leaning toward rebuilding in Westminster and hope to move in by June. Or perhaps they'll find someplace already built in McKinney or Plano, Mrs. Kohls said. Insurance has covered the loss, she added.

"If I'd have my way, I'd have been someplace yesterday," she said.

The Hearnsbergers, who have three daughters, have rebuilt on precisely the same spot because their children didn't want to move. They'll move out of their rented farmhouse outside of Weston in the next two weeks into the newly built home, which is about the same size. The family had insurance.

"Everything is adjusting pretty good," Mr. Hearnsberger said. "You more or less go through your disappointment, your sense of mourning. After what's been done has been done, it don't do you no good to dwell on it. We just try to keep everything going the way it's been going, and trying to build a house at the same time."



What: Picking up the Pieces, a series that follows the bumpy path of four Westminster families after the tornado that destroyed their homes in May.

Where: On HGTV, cable channel numbers vary by market.

When: First of five half-hour episodes airs Sunday at 9 p.m.

If you thought Friday was a bad, (and double bad) day for the Republicans, wait'll you get a load of Saturday.

Friday, September 22, 2006

I chased in southeast Oklahoma yesterday with Robert Hall and Eric Nguyen. We later met up with Paul Stofer, Brian Fant, and some friends of Paul's. The convoy didn't stay together long, however, since we quickly found ourselves weaving through the hills and trees of the near-jungle, pursuing an impressive supercell that earned tornado warnings from Tishimingo to Antlers and beyond.

We had headed north from Denton to Gainesville around 4:30 PM, then turned east on State Highway 82 and north on 377 to Madill. On our way, the original storm weakened and a new, southern cell grew dominant. A wall cloud was visible even from our northbound position with a steeply-tilted updraft and crisp convection on the back of the updraft tower. We were glad the dryline initiated convection before it had mixed too far east.

When we stopped to observe the storm in daylight, some remarkable midlevel rotation and RFD funnels highlighted a striated updraft base with long inflow tails. Well before XM displayed rotation, it was clear our storm was spinning at least down low. Our distance from either the FTW or OUN Doppler sites accounted for the lack of data from the lower levels, we guessed.

At Coleman, we tried a few poor roads east before shooting north to State Road 7, a maneuver that cost valuable time. The storm was ten to fifteen miles east of us for the rest of the night. We saw a cone-shaped lowering at one point, several suspicious lowerings, and at least three distinct power flashes, the latter confirmed by several in our group. The first set of powerflashes were so clustered and obvious that we called 9-1-1 to pass the information along. We were not able to locate a Skywarn network and didn't have our NWS numbers available.

Later we ran into Jeff Snyder, Dan Dawson, Gabe Garfield and some friends of theirs at Sonic in Antlers. Eric and I were amazed we had come within 60 miles of the Arkansas border and commented that we had encountered more chasers and chase vehicles on this September night in bad chase country than in all May or June. Between Saturday and yesterday (and what may still happen later this afternoon and evening), it seems as if September intends to trump May as the best chase month of the year. I never expected to have chased twice in less than a week. (I went to the Texas Panhandle a week ago today--nothing of consequence to report.)

As for imagery, I'll go through all the video I shot sometime this weekend, but I have low expectations. On a happier note, my Trego tornado is an inset on the October spread of the new weather calendar (2007 version not posted yet). Several friends of mine appear in the publication as well.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ann Richards was the first politician (and the last, really) who I “believed” in. I met her twice. The first time I was a sophomore at Baylor University, her alma mater, when she addressed a group of undergraduate students. The second time was at UNT, when I was an officer in the College Democrats and a volunteer with her campaign. When I mentioned that I had met her a few years earlier in Waco, she talked to me for a full five minutes about her memories of Baylor and college life, and this with a big crowd around and everyone eager to shake her hand. Her attention was so undivided that we might as well have been sitting side by side at the counter of a coffee shop.

From her public life, what I remember most is a line from her consolation speech in 1994 when she said that “we tried to make a place at the table for all Texans.”

"I did not want my tombstone to read, 'She kept a really clean house.' I think I'd like them to remember me by saying, 'She opened government to everyone.'"

We remember.

Happy trails, Governor Ann.

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