Forty-six homes are completely destroyed. Two hundred ninety-one more are damaged. A community is shaken but determined to press on.
In the heart of it all, yellow shirts dot the landscape, offering help, hope and healing. Two TBM chainsaw teams cut up fallen trees and drag them to the edge of the street in the Paradise Acres subdivision of Onalaska that was hit by an EF-3 tornado April 22 with winds as high as 140 mph.
Residents here are shell-shocked less than 24 hours later. Pain reveals itself in tears, exhaustion and the blank stares of disbelief. Their reaction is understandable, said TBM Associate Director of Disaster Relief David Wells. Some of them haven’t stopped working since the storm moved on. Their world was turned upside down – sometimes literally – in a matter of minutes.
“The tornado just wiped stuff out,” he said. “It’s devastating. Who is prepared for all the trees in your yard to suddenly be on top of your home?”
But with each cut and tree removed for free by the volunteers, homeowners begin to see a path forward. In an already tight economy, they don’t have to worry about the expense of hiring someone to remove limbs from their property. As weight is removed from their homes, some of the stress is removed from their lives.
Wells met a single woman who was struggling to figure out what to do with her tree-covered home. She’d gotten four estimates to do the work. She couldn’t afford any of them. Wells told her TBM would do it for free. She broke down in tears.
At other homes, volunteers visited with residents who were searching for answers and meaning to their lives after the disaster. TBM volunteers shared about God’s love for all people, encouraged people to follow Him and prayed with them.
Already, Wells sees the resilience that makes up the foundation of Onalaska. Neighbors are working together. Homeowners are working alongside TBM volunteers. Together, the community travels the long road of recovery.
“It’s a small town,” Wells said. “They’re resilient. They’re helping each other. They’re going at it hard. We praise the Lord for that.”
TBM can respond so quickly to disasters because of prayer and financial support from people like you. All donations designated for disaster relief support TBM Disaster Relief efforts. To give online, visit TBMTX.org/donate. To give by check, mail it to TBM, 5351 Catron Drive, Dallas, TX 75227.