Breckenridge Texan

Tornado hits South Bend, destroys homes, causes injuries

Tornado hits South Bend, destroys homes, causes injuries
March 19
07:15 2020

Several people were injured and homes destroyed or damaged when a tornado struck South Bend between Graham and Breckenridge Wednesday night shortly before 10 p.m. After hitting South Bend, the tornado appeared to cross State Highway 67 near the Brazos River bridge to Rosser Ranch Road where it destroyed several homes in that area.

Dozens of flashing lights could be seen along Highway 67 at South Bend as emergency vehicles of all types lined the roads. Two completely destroyed homes could be seen off to the west. Downed power lines and debris was thrown into the trees.

At the time the tornado struck, a Breckenridge unit driven by Fire Chief Calvin Chaney was already located near the Stephens and Young County line, monitoring the storm.

Chaney said he was following the storm to make sure that it was leaving Stephens County, and they had worked their way toward an area near the county line, tracking the storm. He said then somebody that worked for one of the other fire departments called and said that South Bend had been hit by a tornado.

Since they were already in the area, Chaney and the other firefighters drove to South Bend to help. He said that when they arrived, they were the only fire unit on the scene, and he called for more help from Breckenridge and begin conducting door-to-door and search-and-rescues.

“I’m not familiar with that area; if it were here, I’d be able to tell how many people live here and there, but man we just didn’t have a clue,” he said. “People were telling us where to go. You know, ‘This ones OK, but go check these people.’ I’d say, ‘You gotta tell me where they’re at, because we’re not from here.’ So, we stumbled up on them, but it wasn’t very long until Young County started showing up with all their people.

“We just went door to door, checking to make sure nobody was in (the houses),” Chaney continued. “We had reports of people that were trapped in a cellar. The debris fell on the cellar and they couldn’t get out. They weren’t injured, but they were trapped in a cellar.”

He said one man crawled out of a trailer, and a woman was in another house that had collapsed. He said that where her bed was, there was enough room to get her out of the window. About that time, Cheney said  other emergency vehicles were starting to arrive from Young County. He said they were already in route to the scene, but because Breckenridge units were already near the county line they were right there when it happened.

“We just did what we could,” he said. “Then, Graham Command sent us to another road, so we took our guys  and went to another road and started checking houses. Then a multitude of the response people started showing up, and they released us to go home.”

Kassi Stroud, who lives in South Bend, said she and her husband and two kids huddled in closet in their home when the tornado stuck. She said they were listening to the news and then received a warning on their phone to take immediate cover.

“So I looked at my husband and all the sudden, I mean it got quiet. You didn’t hear anything. The rain stopped,” she said. “So I told my kids jump in the closet. And my husband looked at me and I said get in there now, like he thought I was kidding because it got quiet. So of course we jump in the closet and we’re all in there. He grabs the door handle because you could feel it shaking all the sudden and I grabbed it with him…It felt like an earthquake it was shaking so much.”

Stroud said her home received extensive damage from the storm and her in-laws, who live nearby, had most of the windows blown out of their house.

“I lost my roof, most of my windows and one of my doors,” she said. “The only thing that survived was mine and my kids’ bedrooms and the closet we were in. I mean our house was there, but we were missing pieces of it.”

Gerald Bricker, standing in front of his mother’s home that had been completely destroyed, said they left about 10 minutes before the tornado hit.

“I left because I got a phone call from a friend who told me it was coming, so we went ahead and went to town,” he said.

Chaney said you could tell a major tornado had gone through the area and there was a lot of damage. He said he probably saw between 10 and 15 severely damaged or destroyed homes.

“I would be interested to see the path, because it looked like to me it was on the ground for a couple of miles,” he said. “After daylight, they’ll be able to tell a lot more. You know, we were just trying to help them search all the houses. And they got their resources there pretty quick; we weren’t there too long. And I mean they had everybody in the world show up. They had a lot of people show up.”

Chaney said that in addition to his truck at the scene, Breckenridge sent another fire truck equipped with chainsaws and axes in case they needed to cut trees off of houses. He said the Hubbard Creek, and Wayland Volunteer Fire Departments also sent trucks. Graham EMS also asked them to send Sacred Cross from Breckenridge to help with the injuries.

Storms continued in the area throughout the night and early morning hours, but they have moved off to the east/northeast now. Today’s forecast for Breckenridge is for partly cloudy skies with a slight chance for a stray shower. The high is expected to be near 80 degrees.


Story by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: A home east of State Highway 67 in South Bend lays in pieces on the ground after being struck by a tornado Wednesday night just before 10 p.m. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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