Six months after the storm: a look back at the 2022 tornado
On March 21, 2022, Round Rock was struck by an EF-2 tornado causing over $32 million in damage and affecting over 680 homes.
The storm hit just before 6 p.m. on Monday, March 21. Calls began pouring in to 911 about collapsed buildings, overturned vehicles, downed power lines, fires and a gas leak. Round Rock Police and Fire Departments worked in tandem to triage calls for service and conduct door-to-door wellness checks. Transport crews immediately got to work repairing dozens of traffic lights and hundreds of signs that had been damaged. Within three hours, nearly every affected home had been checked and every Round Rock resident had been located.
From the moment the tornado hit, the Round Rock community came together to help each other. Although individual volunteers were asked to avoid the affected area for the first few days as city crews worked to clear roads and bring infrastructure back online, approximately 500 volunteers showed up for a cleaning which took place on Saturday 26 March.
Several organizations also came together to provide aid to those in need in the days, weeks and months following the tornado. Although there are too many individuals and organizations who have volunteered to name them all, below is a list of organizations that have recently been recognized by the City of Neighborhood Leaders Conference. Round Rock:
Central Texas Refuse – Central Texas Refuse was the sole debris removal provider for the community. The tornado touched down on the evening of March 21, the next morning CTR began coordinating with the City of Round Rock the massive cleanup effort to repair the damage. The CTR has prioritized the resources needed to work with the City. They deployed more than 30 roll containers to the affected areas, eventually carrying 185 loads of debris. Additionally, CTR commissioned its entire residential fleet of rear-loading trucks on Saturday, March 29 for the first major cleanup effort. In total, CTR transported nearly 300 tons of storm debris and continued to work with the City until the cleanup was complete in May. The town of Round Rock has no garbage trucks or dumpsters, and therefore no real way to remove the debris so the recovery and repair process can begin. CTR has played a major role in restoring these neighborhoods.
Round Rock Express – The Express opened the Heritage Center at Dell Diamond immediately after the tornado, and the facility became the supply and support site for residents as well as the mobile command center for the city’s first responders. “The Dell Diamond’s proximity to affected neighborhoods, along with the size of the facility and parking lot, made it an ideal location as the epicenter of recovery,” said Joe Brehm, Director of Community Development. “Using their facilities has made all the difference in the recovery work.”
Austin Disaster Relief Network – ADRN provided pallets of food, water, household supplies, gift cards, hotel stays, moving boxes, cleaning buckets, hygiene kits and many resources at the Heritage Center for a week after the tornado. ADRN provided emotional and spiritual care to survivors and coordinated with 12 other agencies to provide programs, support and supplies to approximately 350 families. ADRN continued to work with dozens of families in the months following the tornado for assistance and resources, assisting displaced tenants and assisting with vehicle repairs and replacements.
Samaritan’s Purse – Samaritan’s Purse is a faith-based relief organization that travels to disaster areas to help people in need. The group included trained and insured volunteers who helped seal roofs and provide free labor on private properties with landlords’ permission. In the two weeks following the tornado, the group’s 176 volunteers worked a total of 1,784 hours at 50 homes.
Home deposit – A few days after the tornado, Home Depot staff contacted the City to offer a $3,000 donation of tools and supplies to aid in the recovery. While the city’s tool loan center had been deployed to help with the recovery, many of the trailer’s existing power tools could not be used because power had not yet been restored. With this donation, the Town of Round Rock’s Neighborhood Services team created a disaster tool bank that includes a 4,500-watt gas-powered generator, six gas-powered chainsaws, four wheelbarrows metal and leather work glove boxes. These tools will be available for rapid deployment in the event of a future disaster.
Goodstock by Nolan Ryan – Goodstock raised $10,000 for Round Rock Cares in sales and used its social media presence to share information about Round Rock Cares so its followers could learn more and donate.
Rotary Club of Round Rock – The Rotary Club of Round Rock provided 180 hours of service through field volunteers and the Dell Diamond. Neighborhood volunteers handed out water, snacks and packing supplies and helped pack a neighbour’s entire house. They removed debris by placing it in dumpsters and garbage trucks, handed out flyers about available resources, and signed up volunteers for the Saturday clean-up event.
Lone Star Santa Claus – Lone Star Santas brought early Christmas cheer to tornado-affected families by hosting a Caravan of Toys event on May 7. The non-profit organization provided toys to 28 registered families, representing a total of 60 children in need. Each child could choose two toys, two stuffed animals and additional toys from a bin. Finally, they took a picture with Santa Claus in his chair, which the team printed instantly.
Celebration Church – Several staff at Celebration Church are trained in disaster recovery and volunteered the week of the tornado. Church members took on leadership roles during the massive clean-up event on March 26 and brought more than 250 volunteers from their congregation on clean-up day.
Kyle’s challenge – Kyle’s Challenge is a grassroots community effort that started in 2013 as 50 Turkey Challenge. In response to the tornado, the team smoked barbecue meals for 300 volunteers and residents during the March 26 clean-up event, followed by another 160 additional meals for first responders the following week.
RunnerCity – RunnerCity is a delivery demand group that dedicated 15 volunteers eight hours a day during the week after the tornado. Their volunteers rented two U-Haul trucks, three vans and two trailers to complete the week-long cleanup, move debris and help affected residents get around. Their team delivered meals and supplies from the Heritage Center to residents and brought residents from their homes to the center to receive support and supplies.
The Texas Fallen Project – The Texas Fallen Project primarily travels the state to honor fallen Texas veterans, but the local nonprofit’s mission has grown to offer support to other nonprofits with labor and food service. Texas Fallen Project team members provided 1,500 meals to residents and volunteers during the first week of recovery.
Round Rock Noon Lions Club – The Round Rock Noon Lions Club raised $10,000 in direct resident financial assistance. The club purchased $7,000 worth of gift cards, giving $500 to 14 families in need, and provided an additional $3,000 in HEB gift cards to families. The group organized and prepared a spaghetti dinner in Kensington Park for the residents and delivered these meals door to door.
Grace Presbyterian Church – Grace Presbyterian Church was in the path of the tornado and was located within 200 feet of a house that was completely destroyed. As the closest place of worship, Grace Presbyterian Church wanted to be a resource for neighbors, regardless of religion. The church hosted a dinner for 110 families and raised funds for direct financial relief for two families, giving $2,500 each, and provided more than $7,000 total in gift cards to others. They also held a neighborhood Easter Eggstravaganza with activities, attended by 500 people, many of whom said it was a well-deserved break from disaster recovery.
walmart – One of the very first videos of the tornado, and certainly one of the most memorable, was taken from the entrance to the Round Rock Walmart. The store ended up donating four pallets of water and three trailer loads of non-perishable food such as cereal, soup, snacks and other refreshments to affected neighborhoods.