Residents recount feelings of terror, assess damage after tornado rips through Richardson

An hour after the storm blew through, moisture from the rain caused resident Cindy Dorsay's roof to collapse. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)

An hour after the storm blew through, moisture from the rain caused resident Cindy Dorsay's roof to collapse. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Cutters Point Apartment complex was deemed inhabitable Oct. 21. Florence Salam’s children where inside and on the phone with her when the roof was lifted off. She heard them scream over the phone, she said. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Residents of a west Richardson home work to clear a fallen tree from the hood of a Jeep. (Olivia Lueckemeyer/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Strong winds caused garage doors to buckle and ripped roofs off of homes in Richardson. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Third-party debris haulers and the city’s Brush and Bulky Items Collections staff removed 700 loads, or 43,500 cubic yards, of vegetative debris as well as 239 loads, or 16,000 cubic yards, of construction debris. (Olivia Lueckemeyer/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Tree debris covered the streets and yards of west Richardson neighborhoods on the morning of Oct. 21. (Olivia Lueckemeyer/Community Impact Newspaper)
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As Cindy Dorsay surveyed the damage to her home the day after the tornado, one of the most damaged in the neighborhood, she called out to anyone who passed, asking if they wanted coffee from the box her daughter had brought that morning. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
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A fallen stop sign and downed trees littered Durham Park in west Richardson on the morning of Oct. 21. (Olivia Lueckemeyer/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Neighbors look on at the debris in their Richardson neighborhood the morning after the storm passed. The fact that no one was hurt was the most important thing, neighbor Jerry Cern said. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Flying construction debris from homes caused damage to other neighborhood structures, including fences. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Winds from the Oct. 20 storm destroyed a signal at Centennial Boulevard. City of Plano staff came out to assist with the damage in Richardson. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
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A tree was ripped from its roots in a west Richardson neighborhood. (Olivia Lueckemeyer/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Pieces of resident Cindy Dorsay’s patio and garage were lifted from her home and landed nearby, piercing the windshield of her neighbor’s car. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
A tightly wound funnel is how resident Jerry Cern described the tornado that decimated areas of south-central and southeast Richardson in the late hours of Oct. 20.

"It was skinny—wasn't a big monster or anything," he said. "But look what it did to that traffic light? That's real power."

Cern and his neighbors were some of the most severely affected by the tornado, which touched down near Centennial Boulevard and South Bowser Road. No fatalities have been reported, according to the city.

"The only emergency vehicle we didn't see last night was an ambulance," Cern said. "Apparently, everyone made it out by the hair of their chinny chin chin."

The worst of the storm lasted only about an hour but left behind damage that will require weeks of cleanup and recovery. A statement from the city said crews are responding to multiple reports of downed trees and power lines and damaged buildings.

Cern said he knew something was wrong when he felt a pressure in his eardrums. He heard a loud noise as his garage buckled, and then it was over, he said.

"The debris was raining out of the sky," he said. "It was here and gone."

Down the street, Jerry's neighbor Cindy Dorsay said she had only seconds to grab her dog and move into the bathroom before the tornado hit. An hour after the storm blew through, moisture from the rain caused her roof to cave in.

"It was terrifying—I've lived through a lot of stuff," she said.

As Dorsay assessed the damage to her home, her daughter let her know that part of her front patio was lying in the middle of the street. Pieces of Dorsay's roof had also blown next door and crashed through her neighbors' home and the windshield of their car.

"I talked to them last night—they are all OK," she said.

The smell of natural gas after the storm had neighbors on edge, and many were hesitant to light candles or use generators, Dorsay and Cern said.

"I was scared ... that somebody would get the bright idea of plugging a generator into their house, and without knowing, they would back feed the line all the way down the neighborhood and start a fire a thousand yards away and not realize it," Cern said.

Moments after re-emerging from her bathroom, resident Jessica Gurganus discovered a tree had landed on the roof above her master bedroom. The roof eventually collapsed, leaving much of the back half of her home exposed.

Gurganus described the tree that landed on the roof as a sentimental object of her sons' childhood. They had built a squirrel shelter there and watched critters use it as a nesting place for their young.

There are no longer any trees on her property, where she has lived for 20 years, she said.

"We are going to miss it—it will be an adjustment," she said. "It gave us so much joy. I know it sounds silly about a tree, doesn't it?"

Down the road at Cutter's Point Apartments, Florence Salam and her family stood outside and peered into what used to be their unit. So far, they have not been permitted to enter and gather their belongings. Her children were dressed in their pajamas. Salam wore a dress borrowed from her sister.

Salam said she was at work and on the phone with her children when the tornado hit. During the phone call, the roof came off, and windows shattered.

"All of the sudden, I heard them scream," she said "They were really scared."

The family is unsure where to turn to next, Salam said.

Across US 75 in the Richardson Heights neighborhood, residents on Sherwood Drive walked their block to assess the damage. At Sherwood and Weatherred Drive, crews worked to dismantle a large tree blocking the roadway.

Resident Mary Soto said as she and her son sheltered in the hallway during the storm, she could hear suction pulling at her roof.

"I thought my home was going to go up ... You could hear the wood cracking," she said.

Many of the homes on Sherwood are unscathed, but tree debris totaled some cars and damaged some roofs. The south side of the block was still without power as of 10 a.m. Monday.

For many, the next step is to file insurance claims, which means documenting the damage. Gurganus said her family has already begun the process.

"An adjustor will come out to assess the damage," she said, "and as soon as they do and get everything approved, hopefully we will start getting everything removed."
By Liesbeth Powers
Liesbeth graduated from Baylor University with a degree in new media journalism in December 2018. She gained her newspaper experience as a staff writer and multimedia editor at her campus paper, The Baylor Lariat. Liesbeth joined the Community Impact team in August 2019, where she reports on all things Plano and Richardson, including Plano City Council and Dallas Area Rapid Transit.
By Olivia Lueckemeyer
Olivia Lueckemeyer graduated in 2013 from Loyola University New Orleans with a degree in journalism. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2016 as reporter for the Southwest Austin edition before her promotion to editor in March 2017. In July 2018 she returned home to the Dallas area and became editor of the Richardson edition.


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