On Monday, Kilgore's emergency management coordinators began their detailed study to property damage following Thursday's vicious early morning storm.

Kilgore PD Sgt. Terry Linder and Kilgore FD's Michael Stanley will be reaching out to homeowners to get detailed estimates on which houses are salvageable and which ones aren't, says Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck.

After straight-line winds ripped through South Kilgore neighborhoods in the dark of night, “We think we have about 170 homes that received some sort of damage. That's anything from roof shingles peeled up to complete loss of structures, Selleck said. “Structures that maintained major damage, we think that count's around 40.

That's based on a simple windshield survey, he noted. Estimates are in flux until hard data comes in. Linder and Stanley will leave doortags when they don't have access to a damaged home. If the damage is very apparent, they'll start the paperwork themselves.

There was one apartment on Stone Road damaged, Selleck said, but for the most part the destruction stretched from the southwestern portion of Peterson Road at the city limits north to Harris Street, heading in an east/northeast direction as far as Forest Home Baptist Church.

“The main swathe was probably about a mile wide, he added. “We had some total losses, major losses on Leech Street behind the schools.

Selleck's heard no change to the source of the damage: straight-line winds. Yes, there was some apparent tortion to tree trunks, but nothing that substantiates tornadic activity.

“When you tour from west to east and follow the path of the damage, there's a few isolated areas that look like they may have had some twisting. It's tough to read that after the fact, he said. “What we don't see is an accumulated pattern that would have indicated rotation.

“I'd say 90 percent of the trees fell in exactly the same direction that straight-line winds were pushing them.

He estimates less than a dozen homes are so damaged they shouldn't be occupied at present.

Some problems won't be immediately visible, he added.

“Some of this damage can be deceiving. A tree falling on your structure, the outside of it may look fine while you've got major structural damage on the inside. There's a few homes that fall into that category, certainly.

In terms of the total loss of personal property, it's impossible to estimate right now.

That said, a disaster declaration is not in the works following conversations with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM).

“FEMA and TDEM put new standards in place in terms of what qualifies as a disaster area. The city, based on input from TDEM, did not declare a disaster even though very much so from our perspective this was, Selleck said. “Those levels now are so extraordinarily high, there's no chance of us making it. That's something that's kind of frustrating here. To our community, this was very much a disaster.

“We know that we can recover on our own, but there's some people in some of those complete-loss homes that may not have had insurance. That's where the disaster declaration is supposed to be a backstop, to assist those people.

He continues to be bolstered by the community's to the destruction.

“The change from Thursday morning when the sun came up to today is extraordinary.

The city is helping where possible.

“From our standpoint, Selleck added, “the first day was a 15-hour day, and it was all hands on deck.

Last week, City Hall's streets, parks and drainage crews put in extra hours alongside City Hall department heads, police officers and firefighters helping in the midst of the damage. They're still going strong this week, Public Works Director Clay Evers said.

Water and wastewater crews also put in extra work, he added.

“Power was affected to some of our other infrastructure, he noted. “Thankfully we had no reports of overflows, and we deployed resources to keep those operational.

“There were actually some severe winds out in Smith County that impacted transmission lines, cutting power to the city's wellfield. “It took three days to recoup our storage losses because we were out of power. It was probably not even noticeable in town.

The current estimate puts the first round of clean-up at about a month-and-half.

“That means there will be properties that have brush sitting on them for a month-and-a-half, because that's what we're capable of internally, Selleck noted. “In a disaster, we'd be able to request assistance from other government agencies and know they'd be able to get reimbursed for their efforts, but not without a disaster declaration: “That's one of the things I'd like to see different and reconsidered a bit, is how that process works.

The city is prioritizing cleanup toward personal property.

“Some of the most visible areas will be left for last, Selleck said. For example, “The debris on Florence Street isn't impacting anyone's private property. That will wait for a while so we can get the limbs and brush out of people's yards as fast as possible. We've got a prioritized debris pickup system that's using our resources where most effective.

Selleck's glad to see private contractors at work with homeowners:

“If they're charging for cleanup, they have to clean-up the entire site. That's been a big benefit for us because that's the stuff that takes the most time, he said. Overall, the city manager's grateful there was no loss of life: “We've had some people that went through some pretty harrowing events. We had some people stuck in their homes who had to be rescued by public rescue or by their neighbors.

“It comes back to, Kilgore rallies in times of challenge. Between the various volunteer groups, neighbors, friends and family coming to help and local contractors helping and stepping in to quickly assist with recovery, I can't imagine a scenario where we could have done any better than what Kilgore as a community did.

Kilgore News Herald

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