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After 2 tornadoes struck Sanderson, recovery begins for residents

Sanderson coffee shop Ferguson Motors sustained major damage from the tornadoes that struck the West Texas community on June 2.
Courtesy of Ferguson Motors
Sanderson coffee shop Ferguson Motors sustained major damage from the tornadoes that struck the West Texas community on June 2.

Two tornadoes struck Sanderson on Sunday, destroying two buildings and severely damaging homes across the small West Texas town.

According to a report released by the National Weather Service this week, wind speeds were estimated to have gotten as high as 140 mph.

“Everything you can imagine started falling out of the clouds,” said Jake Harper, who lives in Sanderson and watched as a funnel cloud formed during the storm. “It was just like raining insulation and pieces of structures.”

The first tornado, which was later classified as an EF-3, touched down around 7:14 p.m. and lasted around four minutes, traveling for about a mile.

According to the NWS report, the tornado “immediately entered a neighborhood,” where it caused “damage to walls and roofs of several houses with the destruction of a manufactured home.”

The second tornado quickly spawned a few minutes after the first. And even though it was weaker — forecasters determined the tornado was an EF-1 — it still destroyed one building and caused damage across Sanderson. Twelve people were injured by the storm, but no fatalities have been reported so far.

Harper and his family run Ferguson Motors, a local coffee shop housed in a historic building that was originally a car dealership. Once the storm let up, he set out to see how much damage his shop had taken.

Clean up efforts are underway after the two tornados filled Sanderson's with debri.
Courtesy of Mike Green
Clean up efforts are underway after the two tornadoes filled Sanderson's streets with debris.

What he found was a devastating scene.

“Immediately, [I] saw the roof was gone — the streets were just full of debris, people running around scrambling everywhere. So, it was heartbreaking to see what we were working so hard on just torn apart,” Harper said.

Across Sanderson, the tornado left a large swath of destruction, knocking out power and leaving some residents without running water.

“It’s so strange with the tornado,” said Harper. “There’s absolute devastation next door to untouched buildings.”

Earlier this week, Terrell County Judge Dale Carruthers issued a disaster declaration and requested help from the state due to the “catastrophic damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure.”

Residents have launched their own efforts to help their neighbors and to begin repairs.

“The locals are all helping one another — it’s a revolving door every five minutes someone is coming up,[asking] 'what can I do to help,” Harper said. “Bringing materials to other people, dropping tools off to one another, driving around dropping off water.”

According to Terrell County Sheriff Thaddeus Cleveland, support has poured in from across West Texas including water deliveries, volunteers providing help and medical support. Multiple fundraising efforts have also been launched to support Sanderson and Ferguson Motors.

Harper says the plan is to get his coffee shop reopened in the coming days as recovery efforts continue across the town.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.