National Weather Service Surveys Tornado Damage Near Henderson - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

5/03/08- Rusk County

National Weather Service Surveys Tornado Damage Near Henderson

Several tornados across East Texas brought out surveyors with The National Weather Service Saturday.  They went through Rusk and Panola Counties to look at damages and have classified them as EF-1's.

Friday morning, tornados touched down in Van Zandt County in Canton, Panola County near Beckville, and also Rusk County near Henderson.  Saturday, residents in Rusk County spent the afternoon trying to piece together what they have left.

It could take months for the Rollins family of New Chapel to recover.

"They were just coming out of the closet where they had just taken shelter, and she realized that the damage was really bad," said Ben Hays, who's helping the family rebuild.  Mangled metal litters the property, as barns were blown away.

"A couple other out-buildings over here were destroyed," pointed out Hays.  Once sturdy trees were uprooted and snapped like twigs, showing the sheer force of even an EF-1 tornado.  Brad Gwartney snapped a photo of the twister on his cell phone just outside Henderson. 

"This thing matured as it went East, so I would expect it to get a little wider as we head East," said Keith Stellman, Warning Coordinator Meteorologist with The National Weather Service out of Shreveport.  KLTV met up with Stellman to see how they determine the size of a tornado.  He uses a GPS device to calculate the distance between damaged areas.  That helps surveyors determine how wide a funnel is.

"An EF-1 is a safe bet unless I find something greater," said Stellman.  That EF-1 was enough to destroy almost everything around the Rollins property.  They said it's an act of God that their home wasn't hit.

"It was crazy because the damage was behind the house, within a few feet and in front of the house within a few feet, but the home itself, not a shingle off the roof," said Hays.  "We're really grateful for God's hand of protection."  Family and friends are now coming together from big to small, to repair, rebuild and move forward.

All three tornados in Rusk, Panola, and Van Zandt Counties were classified as EF-1's.  A funnel cloud was reported in Mineola, but The National Weather Service said it never touched the ground.

Courtney Lane, Reporting

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