JARRELL, Texas (KXAN) — A citywide cleanup began at 8:45 a.m. Friday in Jarrell, a city in Williamson County where an EF-1 tornado touched down Monday.
Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell said during a press conference he viewed damage from a helicopter on Thursday and said, “it has been a difficult past few days for the community.”
He said 23 homes and four businesses in the Jarrell area sustained damage from the tornado, and while he stressed patience, he assured people “Williamson County has your back.”
“I look today, we’re cleaning up debris instead of going to funerals,” said Russ Boles, Williamson County commissioner for precinct four, expressing gratitude there were no deaths.
Gravell thanked the media for warning people about the danger before it hit.
He also said most folks in Jarrell are signed up for weather alerts on their phones, which they didn’t have when an EF-5 tornado hit back in 1997.
“Our topology around here does not support sirens. We can’t force sound that far in our particular area. So we think it’s wonderful technology,” said Jarrell Mayor Larry Bush, whose wife lost a child in the 1997 tornado.
Judith Johnson also remembers it well.
“I lost all the things that I collected for years and years and years and years,” she said.
She also lost her best friend and neighbors.
“The two boys and the mother and the father all passed. Got swept away,” Johnson said as she stands on the front porch of her home that was since rebuilt.
She and her husband were out of town on business and returned to a destroyed city.
This time, she, her husband, her mother and two dogs were home, hoping the twister wouldn’t be as deadly as it was in 1997.
“We were in the garage, and we stayed in the closet. It was pretty scary,” Johnson said.
This week, damage along CR 396 was the peak of the intensity surveyed. This same area was also struck by the F-5 tornado in 1997.
Johnson said the Amish community helped rebuild their home, and volunteers helped find some of her items in 1997. She’s grateful that kind of support persists today.
“I met a whole lot more good people than bad people, and so many people were just so giving and loving and and supportive,” she said.
That includes about 60 volunteers at Friday’s cleanup.
“A lot of people need a lot of help, and this is hard work,” said Larnell Camus, who lives nearby.
Camus was there with her daughter and two young granddaughters, who live in Jarrell and took cover during the tornado.
“We wanted to let them know that, you know, this is how we give back to people who weren’t as fortunate as they are, or we were,” Camus explained.
She said they were picking up large debris, as well as personal items like awards and pictures.
“[I feel] happiness that we found something that they may have been looking for, or forgot they had when it got blown away … and, you know, just getting it back into their hands,” she said.
Johnson said all those little things matter. It’s why she returned one picture she found this week to her neighbor.
“I said I think … this belongs here,” she said. “And they broke into tears.”
She’s a link herself in the Jarrell support chain.
“I just hugged him and said and that’s some — all you really can do. Things will come and things will go, but you are still here,” she said.
Cleanup volunteers met at the Jarrell Memorial Park and Community Center, located at 1651 CR 305.
Another cleanup crew will gather at different locations at 8 a.m. Saturday in Round Rock to continue the work there. You can find more information on the county’s Facebook post.