It’s been one month since an EF3 tornado ripped through the parts of Bell County. Hundreds of structures were damaged in the twister that traveled 8 miles.
Four weeks later the clean-up efforts continue.
Tucked away off of Cedar Valley Road lies 47 acres of land that Aaron Howton calls home.
Howton said, “The last 23 years we spent just trimming the trees, building fences, and building a house.”
The veteran and his wife started their lives in Salado over two decades ago. At the time of the tornado, Howton said he and his wife were on the way to Baylor to watch their granddaughter’s softball game. On the way, Howton said he got a call from his son who lives in the area, who broke the news.
“He said everything is just gone. It’s a feeling of 23 years of work is gone in five minutes. It’s kind of three disheartening,” said Howton. “We had a bunch of oak trees over 100 years old, snapped in half.”
Now one month to the date, when that twister touched every corner of his property, community members are continuing to show their support.
Howton said, “Many people showed up immediately that was on April 12th. The morning of April 13th there were people parked all over my front gate just saying tell me what you want me to do.”
The Fort Hood Area Habitat for Humanity partnered up with Designed 2 Sell Real Estate Group, Dell Technologies, Keller Williams Realty in Temple, Main Street Medical Supply, K&W Engineering, Over the Plate, The First Baptist Church of Florence, and many more, to help clean up Howton’s property.
Sandee Payne a Real Estate Broker Associate with Designed 2 Sell Real Estate Group said,
“We’re just cleaning up dangerous materials like metal and building materials that might have blown in. Just having a home I know what that feels like and that’s always something we try to create for our family. Just to see people lose what they built and what they dreamed I just feel it really personally.”
Kristin Smith, the Chief of Operations for the Fort Hood Area Habitat for Humanity said
“There’s just so many different people that came together today to make this happen for this family you know this is why we do what we love. They have served our community for so long that we had to give back we had to get together to give back to this family.”
Close to 100 volunteers showed up to help.
County Judge, David Blackburn said, “Cleanup efforts along with public rights away, as well as the private properties, is still ongoing but there’s been substantial progress made in both those areas so that’s good news.”
However, there is still a long road ahead.
As Howton rides across his property, he said he is grateful for all the hard work and support from the community.
“There’s just so many good people you don’t see and hear from them every day. But when there’s some kind of a problem they show up right quick to help. It’s been overwhelmingly supportive while trying to get us back to the way we were before the tornado hit, it’s just so many people to thank,” said Howton.
While cleaning through the debris, volunteers have found tons of pictures, Bibles, and other items believed to have blown over from a nearby storage facility. If you’re looking for any valuables lost be sure to check with the Salado Public Library.
Jude Blackburn encourages anyone in the area who still needs help to reach out.
"If you call 211 and tell them that you'd like to help, either with the donation of, of cash or money or in services, they can help connect you If you're interested, don't donor with those property owners in matchup what they need with what you can offer," said Blackburn.