Richardson mayor signs disaster declaration after hundreds of properties damaged by Oct. 20 tornado

Hundreds of properties in Richardson were damaged by the Oct. 20 tornado, according to a briefing by city staff.

The tornado entered Richardson at 9:20 p.m., cutting through the southeastern portion of the city before entering Garland at 9:30 p.m. Assessment of properties in the storm's path began in the early hours of Oct 21.

Of the 3,117 properties evaluated, 671 sustained varying degrees of damage—12 properties were destroyed, 60 had minor damage, and 206 had major damage, according to the Oct. 28 briefing.

Specific to residential properties, 54 homes and 196 multifamily units were deemed uninhabitable.

"I've been to ground zero, and it's devastating," said Council Member Bob Dubey, whose district sustained the brunt of the tornado. "In disasters people come together … I am truly blessed to be a part of this city and to see the people who want to do good and take care of their neighbors."

The tornado that struck Richardson was one of 10 that occurred in North Texas that night, according to a report by the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. The tornado's path from Dallas to Richardson stretched more than 15 miles with winds measuring up to 140 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Immediately following the tornado, Richardson city staff deployed several efforts to support victims. Hotel vouchers were provided to displaced residents. At the peak of that effort, 82 families received shelter, Deputy City Manager Don Magner said.

A volunteer coordination facility was mobilized at Huffhines Recreation Center on Oct. 24. Since opening, the center has deployed more than 150 volunteers, Magner said.

The city is committed to easing the rebuilding process for property owners, Magner said. Express permitting will be available for tornado-related construction, and building permit and water reconnection fees will be waived. More information can be found here.

The road to recovery will be a long one, Magner said. Many buildings will remain in a state of disrepair as property owners work through the insurance process, he added.

"Be prepared to be patient," Magner said. "They might be that way for a while."

City infrastructure also sustained significant damage as a result of the storm. Thirty traffic signals were deemed inoperable, while 300 stop signs and street signs were damaged. The city is prioritizing the repair of signs on major roadways but is also developing a plan to repair signs in residential areas, Magner said.

The storm debris removal that began on Friday, Oct. 25, is ongoing. Pursuant to the city's Disaster Debris Management Plan, city efforts to remove debris will be facilitated by a third party.

"We lost a lot of vegetation—a lot of trees," Magner said. "This presents a great opportunity to repopulate."

COUNCIL MEMBERS REACT


The massive rainstorm that wreaked havoc on Richardson in June prepared the city to handle an incident of this magnitude, Council Member Steve Mitchell said.

"What I saw [in June] is that everybody came together, almost as though it was a dress rehearsal for something even bigger," he said. "We did an outstanding job in June and an even more outstanding job in October."

Council Member Mark Solomon commended members at all levels of city staff for their preparedness in responding to the disaster.

"We pulled the trigger, and the gun fired," he said. "Everybody down the line knew where to go, what to do and how to get it done."

The storm hit close to home for Council Member Ken Hutchenrider, who was displaced from his own house in September 2018 when the failure of an underground water main flooded several residences in the northeast Richardson.

"Just know that every day is better, and eventually one day you'll wake up, walk back into your home and it will all be put back together," he said. "And you'll think, 'Wow, how did I survive that?'"

Gov. Greg Abbott, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Richardson Mayor Paul Voelker responded to the incident by signing a disaster declaration. At the Oct. 28 meeting, Richardson City Council voted to ratify the declaration. It will remain in effect until it is deactivated by council, Magner explained.

Signing the declaration means Richardson is eligible to seek federal financial assistance; however, none has been made available thus far. In absence of help from the federal government, the city will need to come up with a plan for how to pay for the damage. Magner said the city is evaluating provisions in Senate Bill 2 that could provide funding avenues in the event of a natural disaster.

"Rebuilding is what a lot of people who have been impacted want to focus on," he said. "It's been a really amazing effort these last seven or eight days, and we look forward to helping everyone who has been impacted by this storm recover."
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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