Residents of Round Rock neighborhood hit hard by tornado find strength in community

Round Rock resident Kevin Rutledge points out the damage caused to his home by a tornado that swept through his neighborhood March 21. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)
Round Rock resident Kevin Rutledge points out the damage caused to his home by a tornado that swept through his neighborhood March 21. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)

Round Rock resident Kevin Rutledge points out the damage caused to his home by a tornado that swept through his neighborhood March 21. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)

In the Round Rock neighborhood of South Creek, residents have been working since early morning to clear debris and assess damage.

The day before, on March 21, a tornado ripped through the city on a northeastern path, destroying businesses, automobiles, infrastructure and homes.

By the morning of March 22, as Williamson County and Round Rock officials were updating residents about where to find shelter, food and other assistance, homeowners in South Creek had been working for hours and trying to figure out exactly how much damage had been done.

"When [the tornado] hit, I mean, we didn't have time. It was just, it was so quick," South Creek resident Lindsey Topolski said. "And then, when I came out, I mean, neighbors just all came out providing water, turning off gas ... calling the fire department."

Topolski pointed across the street where she said a man was stuck in a car upon which a tree had fallen. Fortunately, she said, first responders rescued him.


Topolski's house took a massive amount of damage—the tornado crushed her garage with her car still in it, and the top of her house was severely damaged.

A few blocks from Topolski's house, South Creek resident Tammy Crespo said she was much luckier, as her house had only minor damage.

Crespo said she also recognized how helpful everyone in the neighborhood has been—checking on each other and making sure everyone had enough food, water and other supplies.

As soon as the storm passed, Crespo said she jumped in her car and raced two blocks over to make sure two of her best friends were OK.

"As soon as I saw them I jumped—the car was still running—I jumped out of the car and I ran over and I hugged them so hard," Crespo said. "I've been here 20 years, and we've never experienced something like this before."

On March 22, Kevin Rutledge, who lives across a small creek from Topolski but still in the South Creek neighborhood, had already been showing the damage to national media outlets earlier that morning.

The tornado obliterated the back of his house, destroyed his fence and landscaping, and picked his wife's workshop—a portable shed in the backyard—up off the ground and pushed it across the yard.

"[The shed] was really weighted down, but unfortunately, because it's off the ground, the wind came underneath it," Rutledge said.

While describing the damage, neighbors repeatedly asked him if he was OK and if he needed anything, and he reassured them all that he was alright.

Rutledge said there had been no serious injuries or fatalities that he had heard of, and he said he planned to continue assessing damage and wait for his insurance adjuster to arrive, just like Crespo and Topolski.

Also like Crespo and Topolski, Rutledge noted how helpful everyone in the neighborhood has been, and how willing they all have been to provide what they had to those who may need it more.

"Something about Texas, you know?" he said. "And, I'm a native Texan, and that's what Texas just does. They just come out and help the neighbors and show up."

Brooke Sjoberg contributed to this report.
By Brian Rash
Brian has been a reporter and editor since 2012. He wrote about the music scene in Dallas-Fort Worth before becoming managing editor for the Graham Leader in Graham, Texas, in 2013. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 to work for Gatehouse Media's large design hub. He became the editor for the Lake Travis-Westlake publication of Community Impact in August 2018. From there he became a dual-market editor for Community Impact's New Braunfels and San Marcos-Buda-Kyle editions. Brian is now a senior editor for the company's flagship papers, the Round Rock and Pflugerville-Hutto editions.