Clean up begins after East Texas gets hit with storms

Clean up begins after East Texas get hit with storms

CANTON – CJ Harden is standing on a patch of trampled grass in his front yard.

The father-of-two is watching heavy equipment move mounds of earth peppered with crumpled sheets of metal and other mangled debris there's also men with whirling chainsaws attacking large uprooted trees.  

The 31-year-old electrician is also staring at the very spot his home used to be.

Saturday’s tornado took lives and destroyed homes. And now, more storms could be back.

As the sky begins to darken, CJ looks up and says a quick prayer for no more tornadoes. He then makes his way over to Dustin Higgins, a foreman for JDR Contracting in Van, Texas. Dustin’s crew is donating their services to people hit by the tornado in Texas, people like CJ Harden.
 
“We’re South of Canton trying to help out people who don’t have any help,” Dustin yelled over the machines at work. “We’re got an unlimited supply of equipment, so we decided we’d help out people who need it.” 

The Harden’s home was the fifth and hardest hit property Dustin’s crew helped clear since the tornado touched down, he said.

“We know how it feels not to have anything,” Dustin said. “So we’re here to help.”

Still overwhelmed by the devastation, CJ wasn’t up to answering questions on camera, but he graciously showed us around what’s left. He’s lived there for more than a decade.  

The day of the tornado, CJ and his wife, Brittani, received a weather alert on their cell phones. They packed up the kids and rushed over to his in-laws nearby in time to take shelter before the twister sliced through the yard and took their home. He says had it not been for the alert, he wouldn’t be standing here today.

As the crews continue to clear debris, CJ spots different belongings: His son’s football helmet, broken children’s toys, family photos and full propane tank. To help the family recover, Brittani’s cousin, Jon Buck, created a GoFundMe page

While the Hardens are staying with family, a few others in the area are in Red Cross emergency shelters.

“This community has been phenomenal in helping one another, which has lessened the need for a shelter,” said Red Cross shelter volunteer Stan Thompson. “This shelter had a capacity of 100 and we didn’t get anywhere close to that.” 

Volunteers are getting ready for what may come next in a place where there’s always a weather threat. Jehovani Hernandez is donating his time to help Mercy Chef’s, a non-profit providing hot meals to the storm victims.

“I’m concerned for the people,” he said at his station. “(That) means people may have more disaster, maybe loss of homes, loss of family members, that’s not something easy to deal with.”   

The shelter may not be full but it’s the faces you don’t see that people are helping like a College Station police officer who came to take food to folks working on a home in the area.

Back at the harden home, CJ said the material things can be replaced. Right now, he’s thankful he has his family.

“These people out here need a lot of help,” Dustin said. “They ain’t got nowhere to go if the rains do come. So, we’re trying to help them out.”

And if more weather comes this way there is a community ready to pitch in.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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