When a severe storm blew through the San Saba County town of Richland Springs right before Memorial Day weekend, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning characterized as a “particularly dangerous situation.”
“We look at a lot of different things,” Hector Guerrero, warning and coordination meteorologist with National Weather Service San Angelo, said. “Of course with the radar, the challenges we have with San Saba County and we know this in the National Weather Service, communities farther away from the radar like Richland Springs, they’re about 75 miles – they’re basically on the fringe of all the radars surrounding it.”
In addition to distance, the National Weather Service looked at several other factors before sending out this notification: the holiday weekend, the agency’s emergency manager’s concern over planned outdoor events and credible evidence from the radar that there was something rotating at a high rate of speed.
The National Weather Service says every home received damage during the storm – baseball-sized hail shattered windows and killed livestock. Though the actual weather event wasn’t a tornado, the specific notification was sent out for safety reasons.
“Had this tornado warning not been issued, those people would have either been either hurt or killed by that storm,” Guerrero said. “We heard this one story that night, that afternoon we surveyed all the damage. One gentleman said he looked at his phone, got that tornado warning and he was able to take cover. Had he not gotten that warning, he may not have taken cover and he might not be with us today.”
Hundreds of volunteers traveled from Austin, Fort Worth and surrounding towns to help through the holiday weekend. Captain Ricky Parham and several other members of the Richland Springs Volunteer Fire Department spent time away from work to continue with storm damage cleanup Tuesday. Parham said students from Richland Springs ISD were released early from classes to help residents as well.
“As a small-knit community, we’re going to do our best to help each and every one of these people in town get windows, try to get some type of roofing material on their house,” Parham said.
Parham said local businesses have continuously donated wood and tools to board up broken windows, volunteers donated packs of water and a group in town plans on assisting families with their homes individually.
Ty Mann drove around his personal truck to pick up leftover debris starting at 8 a.m.
“This town needs it,” he said. “We’re just helping out wherever we can.”
Though Friday’s storm was sudden with changing conditions, the town says it will craft a plan for when it is faced with future severe weather events.
“With coordination of the county and the City of Richland Springs and all the fire departments here in Richland Springs, we’re going to get together and if an event happens like this again, we’ll be better prepared,” Parham said.