Disaster declaration issued, Cove cleans up
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Copperas Cove Mayor Bradi Diaz issued a disaster declaration Wednesday following the EF2 tornado that touched down along Big Divide Road Sunday evening and left 196 homes damaged, with several considered uninhabitable.
Come Monday, many homeowners were left dealing with destruction and facing the need to begin finding a reputable company to repair their home. Several contracting, roofing and construction companies, many sent by insurance companies, had descended upon the streets of Big Divide, Logsdon and Colorado, where the bulk of the damage from the tornado was located.
Mary Faaola, who lives on Colorado Drive, said that she came out to take her trash out Monday morning and was approached by a roofing company about the peak on her roof looking possibly damaged from the storm.
She said the roofer tried to make it sound like he was local, but he was actually from out of town. When she came back from taking her daughter to an appointment, she noticed a sign for R.N.C. Construction in her neighbors’ yard and decided to give them a call. She said she trusted her neighbor’s judgment and selection of a contractor.
Dale Hull, an estimator with R.N.C. Construction, was in the neighborhood looking over the damage of other houses when he received Faaola’s call. He told Faaola he would send his roofer to look over her roof later that day to get an estimate of the exact damage.
Hull said that homeowners need to be cautious when choosing a company to fix their homes.
“It’s just scary when you’re hiring out of town contractors because what happens when there’s a warranty issue? Are they going to come back?” Hull asked. “Nine times out of 10…the homeowners end up calling [me] to come fix the crap.”
Just a few houses down the street, Hull had also stopped by Donna Sweeney’s home, which suffered from broken windows, blown down fencing in both her front and backyard and damage to the roof, siding, gutters, trees, her back porch/pergola and her shed, which was flipped over. Sweeney and her husband were both home when the tornado hit. Sweeney said they had not received a warning before her kitchen window broke and sent glass flying across to her piano.
Sweeney had previously enlisted R.N.C. Construction to do the remodeling of her master bathroom to make it V.A. disability accessible in 2018. She said she has tried just about every contractor company out there and trusts R.N.C. and Hull the most.
Hull shared that another concern he has with out of town companies is that they often don’t realize that the city’s code compliancy has changed from when the houses were built. When repairing these homes, everything must be brought to code to be approved by the city. Homeowners could find themselves dealing with a company that only brings a home to the way it was before the damage, which ends up hurting the homeowner in the end.
Hull said he adds these upgrades onto his estimate before he submits it to the insurance company and therefore makes sure the insurance company will cover those repairs.
Many of these out of town companies, like Target Restoration Services and Specialty Restoration Services, are sent directly by the insurance companies because they are cheaper for the insurance companies, Hull said.
Hull said that he tries to make it easy on customers, like Sweeney.
“With this, all she’s got to do is- I’ll get with the adjustor and me and the insurance company will do what we gotta do, and she just sits back, and I’ll tell her what’s going on, and she just tells me what color she wants what or how she wants it to look,” Hull said.
On Sunday evening, Sweeney’s son, Paul, who works at Chick-fil-A, enlisted the help of his coworkers and the Sweeney’s Crestview Christian church family to cover up the roof damage using tarps.
Neighbors on Colorado Drive also banded together to help clear out the first floor of B.J. Taylor’s house when it looked like her second floor would collapse into the first floor, Sweeney said.
On Monday, the community of Copperas Cove came together, with Chick-fil-A handing out sandwiches to those affected while HEB dropped off bottled water, granola and bananas along the affected streets as residents and other volunteers worked together to move debris into piles along the streets.
Sweeney shared that a neighbor bought pizzas from Little Caesar’s Pizza and was given a discount after the restaurant found out they lived in the affected neighborhood.
Hull dropped off tools for Sweeney’s family and neighbors to use in cutting up the fallen trees and dealing with the debris.
Sweeney said that everybody in the neighborhood had been wonderful and come together.
“I think that’s the one thing about our area is that everybody’s helping everybody, and you don’t see that sometimes in some neighborhoods,” Sweeney said.
Although not directly hit by the EF2 tornado, other parts of Copperas Cove and nearby communities were affected by the strong winds that came with Sunday’s storm, including Save A Pet Copperas Cove. Director Brittany Weimert’s house was the base of operations for the organization which takes in and rescues wildlife, exotic and domestic animals. Sunday’s storm brought strong winds that blew open animal enclosures, including those of five wild birds that had been rescued because of injuries.
Save A Pet had been dealt a blow previously in May when the organization’s “cat lady,” Victoria Watkins Killebrew, suffered from her roof collapsing due to excess rain.
The rescue has approximately 60 animals, with about 40 of them located at Weimert’s.
Weimert’s rescues include a small feral cat population, all of which are spayed or neutered and vaccinated against rabies; songbirds, birds of prey, raccoons, possums, a fox and a skunk, as well as dogs and a tortoise.
Since posting on Facebook about the damage from the storm, Weimert said the response from the community and even people outside of the state has been amazing. People have ordered items from Amazon, Chewy.com and even Sam’s Club to be sent to Weimert to help out.
People have donated kennels and carriers and supplies, while volunteers have come out to Weimert’s house to help with physical labor to fix the enclosures.
“We have enough temporary housing to house everybody that we have here until we can get the rest of our building off the ground,” Weimert said. “We have three kennels that are completely built and back together so we’re still only having to do two.”
Money donations as well as supply donations are welcome, Weimert said. Fence panels and other supplies to finish off the larger enclosures are still needed as well as large 4’ x 8’ or 10’ x 10’ kennels. They are always accepting dog and cat food donations as well because both domestic and wildlife animals will eat the food.
“The biggest thing we need right now are volunteers to come out and do the work,” Weimert said.
Five birds initially escaped, including a turkey vulture and a great horned owl which have been found. A Caracara and a red phased screech owl are still missing. Weimert said the Caracara was their biggest concern due to not being able to fly and not having toes. The screech owl also is hindered by only having one eye but is not at risk of being eaten by predators like the Caracara is, she said.
The missing birds are “Wildlife Ambassadors”, according to Weimert.
“The wild birds have a huge role that they play for our ecosystems and keeping the environment stable but the birds that we actually have here at our facility have a much deeper role for the community,” Weimert said. “They inspire the next generation to take up or step and become wildlife rehabbers or wildlife educators or wildlife warriors. So without these birds, and the work that we do, you wouldn’t get one on one experiences with the larger birds of prey in Texas.”
For people on the lookout for the missing birds, Weimert said they would most likely be within a five-mile radius of Weimert’s home near Lutheran Church Road in Copperas Cove and are not likely to be found outside of the Copperas Cove area. If the birds are spotted, people are advised to not try to catch them and instead call Weimert at (254) 290-2422 or contact Save a Pet through Facebook so they can come out to catch them.
In the aftermath of the storm, Save A Pet has also taken in a turkey that someone found and mistook for one of the missing birds.
Save A Pet is also offering cat or dog food to others affected the storm, specifically those who were directly affected by the tornado near Big Divide Road.
The City of Copperas Cove announced that it is also waiving fees for brush collection for residents in the affected area of the tornado, through Monday, June 17. Residents are encouraged to place all brush and bulk debris curbside, in separate piles and not on the street, for pickup through Monday. Solid Waste will resume with the normal collection schedule on June 18.
"Please keep in mind, any contractors hired to complete work are required by City Ordinance to arrange for their own collection of debris. Questions may be directed to the Solid Waste Department at (254)547-4242."
The city has also extended operating hours for the Solid Waste Department to include Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.