Onalaska community rebuilding after deadly tornado leaves dozens homeless

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ONALASKA, Texas (KETK) – Two weeks after an EF-3 tornado ripped through Onalaska, residents are continuing to clean up the damage left behind.

The tornado held a 32-mile path with winds reaching up to 140 mph. It was the deadliest in the Houston-forecast area since 1987 according to the National Weather Service.

One of the hardest-hit areas was Youpon Cove where trees were uprooted and houses left in shambles. The tornado killed three people and injured dozens more. Officials said over 40 homes were destroyed and 291 damaged, leaving many in shelters and temporary housing.

“In this neighborhood, it completely took houses away,” said Jason Schults, a volunteer. “Some of them were even in the lake whenever we showed up the night it happened.”

The Center of Hope, a non-profit organization in Polk County, has been helping distribute water, food, and hygiene products to those affected.

Ronda Stash has been working with the organization since day one, making sure donations get to those in need. She’s also helping her own family after her sister-in-law lost her home.

“She had five seconds to get the baby and into the bathtub. It took her house,” said Stash. “You hear all of the horror stories. In my mind at night I just keep going what can I do more for these people.”

Numerous organizations from across the state have come to Onalaska to help with the clean up efforts. The Revival Center has been at its peak, giving out more than 1,000 hot meals a day.

“Without the many volunteers giving their time and effort we would not be where we are today,” Onalaska Mayor Chip Choate said.

While Onalaska has been receiving help from across southeast Texas, moving forward requires cleaning up and removing debris. Residents have already started putting items they want to dispose of on the side of the road for crews to come along and pick up.

It’s evident that the community is strong in Onalaska with neighbors helping each other and strangers making sure everyone is fed. It will be a long clean up process but the spirit of Onalaska is still strong.

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