The tornado touched down in Williamson County just after 5:30 p.m. April 12 and lasted over a half-hour, stretching at least 13 miles into Bell County, according to storm survey teams with the National Weather Service.
Gov. Greg Abbott spoke in Salado, saying that at last count, 25 people were injured, some of them serious, due to the severe weather, and 70 homes and three churches suffered major damages, but no one has died. Bell County Judge David Blackburn later clarified that there were 76 buildings impacted. Two of those impacted were churches and the rest were homes.
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On Thursday, Abbott issued disaster declarations for Bell County and Williamson County.
Residents say the road to recovery will be a long one, but one church says this will not hold them back. "That building is gone, but the church is stronger than it's ever been, and I know that God will help us to build back even stronger than before," said Donnie Jackson, Pastor of First Cedar Baptist Church.
Pastor Jackson says he is touched by the amount of support he has gotten after a majority of the First Cedar Valley Baptist Church was leveled Tuesday night following an EF-3 tornado. "I get emotional, not because of the loss, but because of all the love that's been poured out on our community," he said.
Three days following the tornado, the church has been cleared off completely with the help of volunteers and community members just in time for Easter Church Service.
"I want to make a point about something. We had a cross hanging on the wall as you entered. In the sanctuary between the doors, everything was destroyed, but that cross wasn't touched. Tomorrow morning, we're going to have service on the slab," said Jackson.
Just down the road from this church is the Victory Baptist Church that was also destroyed in the same destruction path. Pastor Billy Borho says faith will give them the strength to rebuild.
"Somebody said to me, ‘what about your church?’ I said, ‘the church didn't have a scratch on it. The church is fine because it's in [our hearts]’," said Pastor Borho.
Bell County has set up a call center with phone lines for those needing assistance and for those wanting to donate. Homeowners or residents needing assistance following the tornado can call 254-534-4562. Those who want to donate items or funds or even volunteer to help with the clean-up efforts can call 254-534-2217.
"The path in front of us is not going to be necessarily short-lived. The process of rebuilding and restoring property and lives that have been impacted by the storm is going to take more time than that," said Judge Blackburn.
For now, the road to recovery continues for many in Salado. For Pastor Jackson, it will be after Easter. First Cedar Valley Baptist Church will hold Easter Service on Sunday where the church used to stand at 12237 FM-2843 Salado, TX.
Texans who experienced damage as a result of the severe weather are encouraged to report their damages to the Texas Division of Emergency Management's iSTAT survey. The voluntary survey, available in both English and Spanish, can be accessed here.
The governor's office is reminding Texans that reporting damage to TDEM is a voluntary activity, is not a substitute for reporting damage to an insurance agency, and does not guarantee disaster relief assistance. The survey helps emergency management officials gain an understanding of damages that occurred during the severe weather.
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