Even as new storms made their way toward Abilene, volunteers picked up the pieces left behind by the tornado that plowed through four neighborhoods in Abilene early Saturday morning. Storms brought as many as 50 tornadoes through the plains states from Friday through Sunday. The one that left a path of destruction through parts of Abilene was determined to be an EF2, meaning winds reached speeds between 111 and 135 MPH.
Abilene City Manager Robert Hanna says this is not the kind of weather event that Abilene expects, even when severe storms head toward the city.
"The colloquial wisdom was that Abilene was immune from a tornado because of its geography and how it's positioned." Hanna said during a briefing Monday. "And I think we've all learned that Mother Nature will do what it wants, when it wants."
Monday volunteers turned out again to help the city’s cleanup crews collect the broken tree limbs, roof shingles and fence planks that littered neighborhoods on the west side of the city. Abilene United Way President, Cathy Ashby says they’ve been overwhelmed by the community’s response. Ashby noted that Abilene Christian University, Lowes and the Texas Baptist Men sent groups of volunteers, "It's not only businesses, it's individuals, families, people who were off work today came to help. And our cup overfloweth with blessings in Abilene." She said, "Even in the midst of such tragedy it's a great day to live in a community like this."
The United Way of Abilene and The Community Foundation of Abilene are collecting cash donations to help families affected by the storm. As of Monday afternoon, the organizations had tallied more than $14,000.
And while tornadoes tear through some properties and leave neighbors untouched, Abilene City Manager Robert Hanna says there are ripple effects from the storm, affecting even those whose homes and landscaping are still intact. "Today's a regular trash day for folks. I'm just gonna put it out there: Please be patient. This is an extraordinarily exceptional event and we need people's patience and grace as we go about doing our jobs to make this work. We will pick up all the trash. We will pick up all the storm debris."
Hanna says city officials are still cataloguing damage and won’t know for the next week or two whether they’ll be able to apply for state or federal emergency funds.