Texas Tech Grad Lives Through Two Fatal Tornadoes - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

5/11/06

Texas Tech Grad Lives Through Two Fatal Tornadoes

Westminster residents are still searching the area for personal belongings that travelled miles away from the tornado that struck down 9:30 Tuesday evening. Emergency crews responded quickly, but were not able to save three who died in the storm. NewsChannel 11's Jennifer Vogel was in Westminster just hours after the tornado touched down, and she spoke with the Collin County emergency director who remembers his first tornado experience 36 years ago, right here in Lubbock.

"It's something that lives with you." Collin County Judge and Emergency Director Ron Harris has had his fill of tornadoes. "It was a scary experience. I was living in South Lubbock near the Loop."

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May 11, 1970 Harris was working at Texas Tech. "I was driving in my car as the tornado went over and the lightning turned green." Judge Harris felt lucky to survive the Lubbock tornado that took so many lives. He says that experience has given him the skills he needs today to run the emergency operations center in Collin County Texas.

Just days ago, Judge Harris re-lived the experience. "I got back here as soon as the TV repots came in." A late night tornado hit a community with little to no warning. This time, three people were killed in the North Texas town of Westminster. "It was just like the Lubbock tornado, bam bam and there it was."

In Westminster the only warning people had is if they were watching TV or listening to the radio, but now their only form of saving grace is lying in rubble with the rest of their homes.

Collin County has been declared a disaster. And Judge Harris now has a new experience; trying to pick up the pieces of broken homes, to create an early warning system that will give his residents some piece of mind.

Judge Harris has already started looking into reverse 9-1-1, where they can individually call each resident to tell them to take shelter. As far as what they're doing to deliver future early warnings, Collin County Fire says their best line of defense is each household to have a weather radio.

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When preparing for a possible emergency situation, it's best to think first about the basics of survival: fresh water, food, clean air and warmth.

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