By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (March 8, 2016) — For 20 years Cody Derrick has worked for the City of Stephenville, and never, until just before 7 a.m. Tuesday, had he seen a tornado hit in the city limits.
“I started at the department in June of 1996 and to my knowledge, in that time frame, this is the first tornado we’ve had hit in the city limits,” said Derrick, the Stephenville Fire Marshal. “We’ve had some really strong storms with straight-line winds that have caused a lot of damage, but no tornadoes in the city the last 20 years.”
The National Weather Service confirmed that an EF1 tornado did pass through Erath County and Stephenville Tuesday, but just like the Stephenville Police Department said in an earlier statement, Derrick says local officials were not given the proper notifications to sound the city storm sirens.
“We did not sound the alarm sirens because we did not have a tornado warning,” Derrick said. “We did test all the sirens on March 2 and they worked correctly. Obviously we will sound them after the proper warnings from the (National Weather Service) but we will also sound them with confirmed rotation in the system from first responders or certified storm spotters. None of the (that) happened. It hit really fast with no warning.”
Among many emergency responders, Derrick commended a Dublin police officer living in Stephenville for his actions after the storm tore the roof away from Lillian I Apartments at Lillian and Long Streets, damaging the building to the extent that Derrick has ruled it condemned.
“Two Dublin police officers are roommates at Lillian I apartments, and one of them had his car too damaged to get to Dublin when he was called in so he stayed and volunteered to work security all day there at the apartment complex,” Derrick said.
No residents are allowed in the apartment building for any reason.
“I have placed a written order condemning the building as a dangerous building,” said Derrick. “We had several students come back from their spring break concerned because their textbooks were there, and there’s nothing we can do for them. Anyone who calls the Tarleton Control Center will be pointed in the right direction to get paperwork filled out, and the university says they will help replace textbooks that were lost because of the storm.”
Lillian I residents may also call 254.595.0049 for more information concerning the condemned building and their belongings.
Stephenville Police Sergeant Sha King has informed media the Red Cross is present at the Stephenville Senior Citizen’s Center downtown for anyone needing food or shelter.
Derrick applauded the cohesion of area emergency responders, saying teamwork and communication are key during and following such events.
“Whoever we call from whatever department, it doesn’t matter, everyone comes running to help,” he said. “We have great emergency response personnel all around Erath County and I’m proud to work with them.”
Erath County Commissioner, Pct. 3, Joe Brown, also a volunteer firefighter, echoed those words, saying, “We have a good group of guys with us and around us. It helps to know these guys have your back out there, and we’re glad to have theirs when they need it, too. You just do the best you can for folks when they need it.”
And concerning the potential for more storms Tuesday night, the fire marshal said. “All i know about the weather is what the National Weather Service tells us, and they’re saying we are supposed to have more storms after midnight and there is a possibility of them being severe.”