October of 2019 was a very difficult month for Bronco. He was getting old, and he had the first signs of geriatric-onset laryngeal paralysis polyneuropathy (or GOLPP), which made his breathing a bit labored and affected his gait. In addition, he had developed another case of squamous cell carcinoma, this time on his right rear paw, and that toe was amputated on October 3—the day he turned twelve years and three months old. The surgery went well, but after around ten days it was discovered that he had a large deep ulcerous sore on the same paw a few inches above the surgical scar. Fortunately, it was not cancerous, as we first thought, but we would have to treat this sore in addition to nursing him back from his amputation.
On October 20, I was sitting in our backyard. Claudia and the dogs were inside. I was finished walking the dogs, and the sun had just set. A severe thunderstorm was approaching, and there was a tornado watch in effect—but that’s not unusual for North Texas. I was sipping a delicious Texas beer, an IPA called Yellow Rose, when my cell phone started beeping. It was a tornado warning—upgraded from a tornado watch. I also heard tornado sirens, but they weren’t very loud, and as I found out later, some people didn’t hear them at all.
About the same time as I heard the sirens, I saw lightning in the distance and heard thunder. I decided to finish my beer and go inside to be safe. A few minutes after I walked in, it started raining heavily, and the wind became very rough. It sounded like golf-ball-size hail was hitting the roof. The house shook from the winds, then suddenly there was a loud boom.
I thought lightning had struck the house. What I didn’t know was that a flying block of concrete had just smashed our chimney. Bronco was calm, and the little dogs seemed okay, too.
After the wind had died down a bit, I opened the door to the backyard, and what I saw shocked me. My gas grill had flown across the patio. There were bricks and pieces of concrete all over the patio and the lawn. There was a big sheet of metal lying on the patio. Big tree branches covered the lawn. There was debris everywhere. We had also lost power. I didn’t notice until the next morning that our chimney had been smashed and that the roof was covered in bricks and debris. It turns out that an EF3 tornado had gone through our neighborhood and passed within fifty to one hundred yards of our house.
Claudia called her parents, who live only a mile from us. They had been badly hit, but they seemed fine on the phone, and they didn’t complain. Still, she asked me to drive over and check on them. But as soon as I turned out of our driveway, I saw my neighbor’s roof lying on the street, rendering it impassable. I turned around and tried to go the other way, but that didn’t work, either. Across that end of the road lay a huge pile of trees.
So I parked the car in my driveway and started to walk toward their house. I was stopped by four firemen, who told me that it was not safe to walk around the neighborhood. They asked me to go back home.
It was dark, but I could see some of the carnage. I realized that we had been lucky. Many of our neighbors had lost their entire homes. We ended up needing a new chimney, a new roof, a new fence, and a few other things, but we were fine.
The damage to Claudia’s parents’ house was more severe, which we would discover the next day when we visited them. Their windows had been blown in, and Claudia’s dad had to hold on to a doorframe in order to keep himself from being carried away. A broken marble tabletop hit him in the back and gave him a foot-long bruise. He did not go to the hospital.
The Preston Royal shopping center was also devastated by the tornado. That’s where our veterinarian’s office was located. Thank goodness they didn’t have any animals staying overnight that night, but the clinic was gone. So were many stores and restaurants. Our favorite supermarket was destroyed. The school our boys went to was severely damaged, and some buildings were later torn down. There was debris all over the neighborhood.
Claudia’s parents had to move out of their house while repairs were made, but although we were able to stay in our house, we didn’t have power for four days. There was no cell-phone signal in our neighborhood. The streets weren’t navigable, so I couldn’t go to work. It was also hot, so this was stressful for Bronco.