JACKSBORO (KFDX/KJTL) — It was exactly one year ago that an EF-3 tornado would hit the town of Jacksboro, leaving behind miles of damage.
“When you look at the magnitude of the tornado that swept through Jack County, and know that there are no fatalities, it is a miracle,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott recalls.
“I was one of the first responders here and this campus did a great job, we’re just blessed that there hasn’t been any serious injuries or deaths. Just a true blessing,” Jacksboro Chief of Police Scott Haynes recalls.
“Walls collapsed. You can see the damage here at our high school gymnasium, this wall was collapsed,” Jacksboro ISD Superintendent Brad Burnett said.
“It just brought tears to my eyes, it’s hard to see that, you know. I’ve lived here for 15 years, I love this place, and so it was hard,” Jacksboro High School Principal Starla Sanders said.
What started off as just a normal day for the residents of Jacksboro, quickly turned into a day they’ll never forget
“You know, I remember coming to work in what I thought was going to be a normal Monday morning,” Chief Haynes said.
“It was the day back from spring break everything was very normal we were trying to get back in a routine and about 3:15 is when it turned abnormal” Principal Sanders said.
As that Monday went on, the sky and weather started to change, soon taking an unexpected turn for the worse.
“The bad weather starts to roll in, and I remember you know my elementary principal messaging me and saying hey chief are you tracking this weather, and then he called me, and we talked for a second and the minute I hung up from talking with him all of my alerts started going off that we were tracking the cell as it came in,” Chief Haynes shared.
He says a year later he can still recall the events of that afternoon as if it happened yesterday
What Jacksboro High School Principal Starla Sanders says made this severe storm even scarier for the entire Jacksboro community was that it was about to hit right before dismissal time for the students
“We had to make the decision of do we keep kids here, I’ve got drivers, or do we let them go home,” Sanders said.
It was the quick actions of Superintendent Brad Burnett and Chief Haynes, telling administrators and students to shelter in place at the schools, as there are storm shelters within the schools’ hallways, that made all the difference, making it safely into those storm shelters just in the nick of time.
“I watched the tornado with Mr. Burnett, and from where I was standing we knew it was going to go right over the elementary and high school area and I just told the principal Hey I got to go because this is not going to be good,” Haynes said.
First arriving at the schools, which were the most damaged.
“When I stepped outside I actually didn’t look this way towards the gym that were standing in right now and a teacher called me, and she said there’s a hole in the gym, so I walked this way, and then I realized it’s more than a hole it’s been ripped off the gym, and so I walked outside, and I could see the elementary roof blowing in the air and that’s probably the point where it all became real to me because I have two boys that we re in the elementary,” Sanders said.
“There are 400 to 500 students and parents that are in that building when the tornado went right over the top of it, so we’re just blessed, no injuries, no serious injuries no deaths,” Haynes said.
“God was really watching over us during that time for sure, you know no lives were lost at the elementary which when you look at the damage you would assume that with that type of tornado coming through her,” Sanders said.
It was truly a miracle, most people in town that day were physically unaffected, but devastation was still in the streets. They weren’t sure how long they’d be uprooted from their day to lives. Sleepless days turned into weeks, but one thing that never wavered was this community and the entire Texoma’s faith, and ability to help one another
“Our community just rallied around the schools, churches opened their buildings for us to come into, we also lost our house me and my husband our two children,” Sanders said.
“It was amazing the first several weeks afterward because literally you know if there was a skid steerer in Texas it was here in Jacksboro because people just showed up with equipment and trailers and just started helping us, the community just united, and you know it’s a resilient place here in Jacksboro,” Haynes said.
Now, officially 365 days later Principal Sanders and Chief Haynes are still picking up these pieces, with, but now they say they feel they are better prepared for the future
“Our kids bounced back, we came to school back in a week and not everybody could believe we were doing that, but we did, we got our kids in the building because this is their safe place,” Sanders said.
Things are moving in the right direction, Principal Sanders says they expect to have the roofs finished in the next 12 to 18 months, but there’s still a way to go, and Jacksboro, well they are stronger than ever.