The Day After: Photos of the Tornado's Damage in Rowlett

The Day After: Photos of the Tornado's Damage in Rowlett
The view from the alley behind Pebble Beach Drive in Rowlett, looking toward a water tower also damaged by Saturday's EF3 tornado.

In the big picture, you could say Rowlett was lucky. No one died when an EF3 tornado tore through the northeastern suburb the day after Christmas, unlike in neighboring Garland, where an EF4 twister from the same storm killed eight people as it tossed cars and trucks into the air near Interstate 30 and George W. Bush Turnpike. But on the ground on Lindsey Drive in Rowlett on Sunday afternoon, "lucky" hardly seemed the right word to describe what faced neighbors who slogged out into a cold driving rain to begin sifting the soggy pieces of their homes.

Somehow, no one was killed in Rowlett, where a December 26 tornado destroyed 39 homes and damaged around 140 in all, according to news reports.
Somehow, no one was killed in Rowlett, where a December 26 tornado destroyed 39 homes and damaged around 140 in all, according to news reports.
Patrick Williams

The tornado played true to stereotype, randomly picking winners and losers, leveling some houses and barely touching others within sight of one another. Houses with missing shingles and broken windows stood near others that were reduced to piles of lumber, brick, insulation and glass. Some cars were untouched, while others were flipped over or had their windows smashed by flying debris. Even the survivors' stories had a familiar ring. Take Catherine Armstrong's, for instance. Pausing as she and a group of helpers hauled a blanket loaded with her possessions away from her flattened home on Pebble Beach Drive, she described a scene right out of the standard tornado playbook: She cowered under cover in her downstairs bathroom as the twister roared with a sound "just like a freight train," ripping apart her house wall by wall, leaving her looking out at the night sky. "It's the only room left standing," she said.

Flipped cars at a cul-de-sac on Lindsey Drive.
Flipped cars at a cul-de-sac on Lindsey Drive.
Patrick Williams

Across the alley a few houses up, Jessica Trojacek rode out the storm at her job as a pharmacist at Baylor Hospital until she got a call from a relative who told her that it had struck her place. By the time she got home, police had cordoned off her neighborhood but waved her through when they saw her scrubs. She was luckier than Armstrong; her house had a huge hole torn in its roof and several broken windows, but unlike those behind her across the alley or just up the street that were literally torn in two, her place was left standing. Nature still had one more twist to give to the knife, though. "It's raining in my living room right now," she said, standing in her garage and looking out at the cold rain pouring down Sunday, adding an extra dose of misery to people left with damaged roofs and no power for heat.

The storm left some little to salvage.
The storm left some little to salvage.
Patrick Williams

Still, things could have been worse. For Trojacek, the good news was that her two dogs were safe, she has a brother to stay with and had already heard form her insurance adjustor. And while Christmas is a particularly cruel time for a natural disaster, the holidays meant that several of Trojacek's neighbors in the worst hit houses were traveling and so escaped possible injury. For many, the homecoming will be grim, but at least they — and all of Rowlett's storm victims — are alive to come home.

“It’s an absolute miracle as far as I’m concerned," Mayor Todd Gottel told The Dallas Morning News. “Seeing it on television doesn’t do it justice."

Another view of Lindsey Drive. That's Catherine Armstrong in brown, after she had loaded up some of her remaining possessions.
Another view of Lindsey Drive. That's Catherine Armstrong in brown, after she had loaded up some of her remaining possessions.
Patrick Williams
You could see pieces of ripped up privacy fences buried in mud around the neighborhood.
You could see pieces of ripped up privacy fences buried in mud around the neighborhood.
Patrick Williams
The first floor of what used to be a two-story house.EXPAND
The first floor of what used to be a two-story house.
Patrick Williams
Judging from the damage, the storm appears to have opened this car's trunk, but left it sitting upright.EXPAND
Judging from the damage, the storm appears to have opened this car's trunk, but left it sitting upright.
Patrick Williams
Looking southwest from the alley between Lindsey and Pebble Beach drives.EXPAND
Looking southwest from the alley between Lindsey and Pebble Beach drives.
Patrick Williams
One of the better-off houses in a three block stretch of Lindsey Drive.EXPAND
One of the better-off houses in a three block stretch of Lindsey Drive.
Patrick Williams
Jessica Trojecek's downstairs bathroom. Notice how the storm blew out the window but left the pictures hanging on the wall.EXPAND
Jessica Trojecek's downstairs bathroom. Notice how the storm blew out the window but left the pictures hanging on the wall.
Patrick Williams

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