ELGIN, Texas (KXAN) — “Walking around here, I was crying,” said Chris Cielencki, standing in the front yard of his home. “Grown man crying.”

That was after the tornado hit last Monday. Since then, he said it’s been “hell.”

Traces of the tornado remain: a curled-up roof over the two surviving cars, missing windows in the garage and a giant dumpster full of debris.

“There was plywood, sheet metal, tree trunk pieces, everything just everywhere,” Cielencki said. “It was a mess. And it’s all cleaned up now because of lots of hard work and family and friends that care.”

They’ve already filled up three and a half 20-yard dumpsters.

Then, Thursday night, Cielencki checked his mail to find a certified letter from the City of Elgin.

“Basically stating the building has become unsafe, unsanitary, a public, attractive nuisance,” he read.

The letter was titled, “Unsafe Building Abatement Ordinance,” and it stated Cielencki would have to get a demolition permit within 30 days of receiving the letter and demolish his home within 60 days.

The Cielencki family received this letter from the City of Elgin, stating their home had to be demolished. (Photo courtesy Chris Cielencki)
The Cielencki family received this letter from the City of Elgin, stating their home had to be demolished. (Photo courtesy Chris Cielencki)

City spokesperson Amy Miller said the letter had a mistake on it.

“Where it should have said ‘demolition or building permit’ it just said ‘demolition,'” she said.

Miller said over 100 structures were damaged in the area, but only four fell within city limits. She said all four received these letters.

Miller said a new letter would be sent out, along with an apology, giving homeowners the option to get a demolition or building permit.

The new letter would still deem the structures unsafe — even though she said code enforcement never inspected them, only viewed them from a distance.

“At a different point in the process properties might be inspected formally but initially it is an assessment from the public right of way,” she said.

“So they don’t know what it’s like inside,” Cielencki said. “They don’t know if it’s unsanitary like they stated. They don’t know if there’s structural damage. They don’t know any of that.”

Miller said homeowners should call the development services department to discuss their options.

“We can work with people in terms of how much time is taken and we help connect families with resources,” she said.

“Theoretically, all homes can be fixed. There is no one size fits all and is not an either-or scenario. It depends on the house and the damage that was done. Our recommendation is that the homeowner contact the Development Services Department to discuss options at (512) 281-0119,” said another spokesperson in an email to KXAN.

Cielencki said he’s called and left a voicemail but hasn’t heard back yet.

He’s also waiting on his insurance adjustment to come back, but said neither the insurance adjustor nor the general contractor who have inspected the house said there was structural damage.

It’s another hit for the tornado victims.

“Total hell,” he said. “My wife has multiple sclerosis, so it’s very hard on her. And she’s feeling the effects.”