Terror struck in a moment.
With only a shadow of warning, Rene Tartaglino and her 67-year-old mother dove for cover.
Seconds later, a tornado plowed across Valerie Tartaglino’s once-beautiful country home just east of Alvord, before it proceeded east – leaving a swath of downed power poles and broken trees in its wake.
The tornado that struck her home was one of 16 that touched down Wednesday afternoon and evening in North Texas according to the National Weather Service.
“We didn’t know anything about it,” Rene said. “Thank God for telephones because my daughter and my aunt were saying ‘It’s right on top of you.’
“My mom was in the bed. And we were getting texts telling us we need to move, we need to take cover. But my mom was like, ‘I’m just gonna stay here in the bed.’ My mom is real tough like that.
“I’m yelling at my mother, ‘You gotta get up!’ So I yanked her by the arm, and we got out of the bedroom.”
They moved from the bedroom, through the kitchen and cowered under a quilt in a hallway.
“We barely made it out of the bedroom and the tornado hit,” Rene said. “We made it through the kitchen right before the roof collapsed. We went into a hallway, the only place in the house without windows, then I just grabbed a quilt and threw it over us.”
The twister shattered glass and objects in the bedroom and shredded the roof and ceiling from above the kitchen. A gaping hole roared above the kitchen as the tornado proceeded to move east. It struck around 8 p.m.
“I was listening for a freight train because that’s what they say to listen for,” Rene said. “But I heard absolutely nothing until it hit. It was real ominous.
“It hit so fast. There’s no alarms out here. You just don’t know. We only knew because my aunt and my daughter were texting us from Dallas. We were 30 seconds from dying. We were seconds away from being filled with shards of glass.”
Amazingly, no one was injured, including two ranch hands who were forced to take cover in the floor of a pickup as the tornado tore through the farm.
“It was all from the tornado,” Rene said. “It was about a quarter-mile wide. You can see the path it made going right through here.”
“You can see the path of trees and power lines knocked over as it passed through,” said Alvord Asst. Fire Chief Danny Souther. Alvord Volunteer Fire Department responded right after the tornado hit. “We came to offer any support we could. We made sure everybody was OK, and they had a place to stay. We checked on all the animals, made sure they were OK.”
The following morning they were able to better survey the damage.
“We were devastated,” Rene said. “Maybe half the house can be salvaged. I’m trying to get some names and numbers to get someone who can temporarily roof it. We need help. We need contractors.”
Family members picked through debris, cleaning and trying to salvage what they could from the home. A nearby horse barn was obliterated. Giant bushes covered in pink flowers peered out of holes left where strips of the greenhouse were tossed halfway into oblivion. A shed had collapsed. Splintered trees littered the yard like giant chunks of mulch. Strips of metal wrapped around trees and iron fences.
Yet some items remained untouched amid chaos. An orchid blossom, every delicate petal still perfect, rested in a flower pot in the kitchen window. Two pills lying on the counter were unmoved. And an assortment of photographs were unscathed.
“In the front yard, trees were destroyed, but one birdhouse is still standing, untouched,” Rene added.
At approximately the same time, several miles to the east, at a home south of Greenwood, a family returned home from church Wednesday evening to discover a large metal hay barn on their property ripped to shreds. Vehicles and pieces of farm equipment were damaged, and some were a total loss.
Danny Taylor’s home narrowly missed destruction, but he suffered substantial property loss when a possible tornado ripped a 60-by-80-foot metal barn off its concrete footings. Chunks of concrete scattered like cookie crumbs as the heavy metal structure folded over onto vehicles.
“The report we’re getting is, it was a tornado,” DeAnn Taylor said. “Several of the neighbors actually saw the tornado, so I’m assuming tornado.”
Long strips of sheet metal from the barn hung wrapped around large oaks and draped over power lines. The family’s home, more than 100 yards from the barn, had a small hole ripped in the roof. Hay from the barn was embedded in outside corners of the home.
“It had to have been a tornado,” Danny said. “It mangled everything. There was some damage on the house, but mostly to this barn, the horse barn next door, two van trailers blown over, pickups totaled, truck possibly totaled and the damage to these tractors and hay balers.
“The way the metal is twisted and mangled, it had to be a twister. Everything is blowing back to the west. It looks like it was tracking back to the house, but then went over and spared it.”
“That storm was moving to the northeast, but by the time we got out of church it was moving back,” DeAnn added. “Our house is not leveled. God was looking after our house.”
Danny and his wife DeAnn and their three kids were uninjured, as was one of his workers who was on the property when the storm struck. All their horses and dogs also escaped injury.
“With God’s help we’re going to keep marching forward,” Danny said. “It’s devastating but it’s just stuff. It can all be replaced. It’s the only attitude you can have.”