As the day broke on Wednesday, the Howe community was counting its blessings, relatively speaking. There have been no reported fatalities and mercifully few reported injuries following a tornado that ripped through the area at approximately 10 p.m. Tuesday night.
The National Weather Service on Wednesday afternoon confirmed for the Leader that it has classified the occurrence as an EF-1 tornado producing winds of 95-100 mph. The tornado tore through the Summit Hills subdivision, made a diagonal path to FM 902 and Highway 75 and continued on through Bells.
The full effects of the tornado could be seen in the harsh light of day Wednesday as residents began to pick up tree limbs, debris and pieces of housing and cars off of the streets in front of their houses. The Summit Hill subdivision, in particular, was hit hard. A drive through the neighborhood the next day revealed a metal roof laying in the middle of a road with its structure nowhere in sight. Across the street, one home showed the battle scars with a downed fence and two vehicles that appeared as if they had been worked over with baseball bats. Drive down to the next block and a full-size RV tow-trailer flipped over on its side could be easily spotted. And power lines on Farmington Rd. were still down as of Wednesday afternoon, though crews were working diligently to restore service, as was Cable One, whose internet service was also knocked out.
According to Howe Police Chief Carl Hudman, there have been no reported fatalities, though five people were transported to the hospital. These injuries stemmed from the tornado tearing its way through the 902/75 area. Two tractor-trailers were overturned, one while parked and the other flipped and slammed into the concrete median while driving on 75. Two other passenger vehicles traveling southbound on 75 were also caught in the full fury of the tornado.
"They were hit by debris and possible picked up and overturned," said Hudman.
In that same area, the storm stuck Winslow’s Portable Buildings and Howe High School in succession. The tornado destroyed more than half of the 50 portable buildings on site at Winslow’s and ripped down the chain link fence surrounding the property. General Manager James Parsons was less concerned with the damage to his lot than the community as a whole, however. As had many Howe good neighbors, Parsons offered his services to whomever could use them.
"Our business was hit by the storm, but it wasn’t our houses. People’s homes got hit," said Parsons. "If anyone had any damage to their houses and they need a portable building to store their stuff in, I’ll take it out to their house and let them use it free for 30 days. If they need us, we’re here. We’re in the community, too."
Those who need help can call 1-800-636-4700 and state that they are a resident of Howe who had storm damage and needs a portable building.
All throughout the city, residents were undergoing the arduous task of cleaning up after Mother Nature’s fury. A group of men on the west side of Summit Hill were looking at yet another overturned RV and working on plans to get a temporary roof on their building, while at another residence a couple was hauling massive tree limbs out of the street. Along Highway 75, photo takers were even posing with the massive steel billboard unit that had been ripped from the ground and toppled as if it was made of cardboard.
It will be tough going for a while for those living in Howe. As of press time on Wednesday, there was no power to much of the city. City Hall and the rest of downtown was closed for business, while Howe ISD cancelled classes for at least Wednesday while it waited for power to come back on and for a damage assessment of the high school. It appears that the tornado ripped the air conditioning units off of the roof and that there was water leaking inside the building.