COPPERAS COVE — Rob Robison stood on the roof a home on Big Divide Road on Tuesday knowing that he and his partner Travis Miller still had a lot of work ahead of them.
“It’s non-stop,” Robison said of the calls R&R Restoration of Killeen has received since a tornado struck the area just west of Copperas Cove that includes Big Divide and Grimes Crossing roads on Sunday,
Robison and Miller had already done about two dozen patch jobs on roofs in the area by Tuesday morning. Mainly, the work right now is just patching roofs in the necessary places to offer protection from the weather, “for right now, until the insurance gets hold of it,” Robison said. He added that most of the roofs would need complete replacement, a cost that could exceed $15,000 on some larger homes.
Copperas Cove officials estimated Sunday night that 196 homes had been damaged in the Big Divide area, with three of them uninhabitable.
Deputy Fire Chief Gary Young confirmed those numbers again Tuesday, saying there was nothing new to report on the storm or its aftermath. Young again said that no donations or volunteer assistance were needed in the area at this time.
Traffic along Big Divide Road on Tuesday morning was heavier than usual, as workmen, insurance agents, utility trucks and gawkers combined to make the road seem like a main street instead of a rural road.
BJ Taylor was sitting on her front porch on Colorado Drive speaking to her insurance agent Tuesday. Piles of debris sat near the edge of the road near the Taylor home, but the damage to the front of the home seemed minimal.
“Starting in the front yard, it damaged our flag pole,” Taylor said of the tornado. “It took off probably the front third of our roof. It took off probably the back three-fourths of our roof.”
Taylor said the insulation and sheet rock exposed fell in during the storm, damaging the attic, her craft room, the master bedroom and the living room.
“We probably have an initial estimate of somewhere around $200,000,” Taylor said of the damage to her and her husband’s home. “We have been told that we will be out for four to five months, but we are much luckier than other people because the building out back has a full kitchen, a full bath...as of today, it has a new hide-a-bed.”
Taylor had been taking a nap Sunday evening when the tornado started coming toward the home.
“I saw the funnel come toward the bathroom window and then go straight up,” Taylor said. “Once the roof was either loosened or came totally off, you heard like a flapping sound...but it was just a very loud sound.”
Despite the short period that’s elapsed since Sunday’s tornado and the damage it caused, Taylor said everything is going relatively well.
“We have had church family, we have had military organizations that (her husband) belongs to come down … (Raising) Cane’s came down with food, Chick-fil-A came down with food, H-E-B came down with water, bananas and granola. All of that has been wonderful.”
Taylor also credits her insurance company, USAA, for getting the ball rolling on the cleanup of the debris.
“They hired Target (Restoration Services),” Taylor said. “They were here within two hours to start restoration.
“Everybody says it’s just stuff, and that is absolutely true, but it’s our stuff. Replacing stuff will be a time consuming process, but 98% of the stuff we have is replaceable.”
The Taylors’ insurance agent, Bill Butler of USAA said he’s been to only a few homes so far, but anticipates getting even more claim requests before the end of the week. He said other agents from his company are out assessing the damage and noted that many homes in the area were insured by his company. He couldn’t give any numbers about claims or damage estimates Tuesday.
Greg Mitchell was working on his own Tuesday to clean up the damage from the storm. Using a chain saw and a cart, Mitchell was taking apart an uprooted tree in his front yard on Ridgeline Road.
“This tree was down,” Mitchell said of the damage he found after the tornado went through. He pointed to another group of trees toward the side of his property that also fell during the storm. “More trees in the back are down. (We) had a little bit of roof damage, not bad. The carport’s leaning just a little bit.”
Mitchell said he’s spent hours working on cleaning up debris since Sunday and anticipates doing lots more work. His insurance agent won’t be able to start work on assessing the damage until Thursday.
Neatly piled tree branches and other debris lined the streets of the neighborhood Tuesday. A truck from the City of Copperas Cove was lifting heavy debris from the side of the road to be taken away and disposed of. City Public Information Officer Kevin Keller said the Solid Waste department would be concentrating on bulk and brush pickups the rest of this week.
“It is important that our citizens try to separate these items on the curb, as they go to two separate dump locations,” Keller said in an email. “Bulk items will go to the transfer station for transport, brush will go to the old landfill area, where it will either be mulched or burned.”
Electric crews were busy working on one of the most heavily damaged homes in the area on Tuesday. Workmen from Hamilton Electric cleaned up debris and began working on the overhead power line of a home at the intersection of Big Divide and Grimes Crossing road.
As the crews worked, Danny Sheppard of SRC Roofing watched from the side of the road. Sheppard said he hasn’t received any calls for help yet but was driving through the neighborhood assessing the damage. Before he went into construction, Sheppard was an insurance agent, so he has a bit of perspective on what’s happening right now around the area.
“They had 30 brochures (from repair companies) on their front porches by Monday morning,” Sheppard said, of the numerous contractors who have flooded the neighborhood since the tornado. But he says it is too early for anyone to be signing contracts for extensive repairs.
“The best thing you can do is to get someone out to mitigate the damages,” Sheppard said, “because the insurance companies will pay for mitigation (since) you’re saving them money by preventing any further damage.
“The best thing to do is to hold off on signing contracts. If you do something too early, a lot of times there are things the adjusters can’t see, so they have to come back and supplement it. What you need (in a contractor) is someone who will work with the insurance company to supplement things if you need it.”
Sheppard said a lot of homeowners are motivated to quickly sign repair contracts out of fear.
“Tornadoes throw a lot of fear into people. But then they look back a few weeks later and then realize (they) could have done things better.”
He believes every homeowner in the damage area should check their insurance policies carefully.
“Especially for things like code upgrades and for additional living expenses if you have to move out of your house. Those two things are very important to having your property fixed and put back into its original condition.”
Asked if the damage from the storm was among the worst he had seen, Sheppard shook his head.
“Here you have a couple hundred homes, mainly roof damage, trees are down,” Sheppard said. He feels the biggest damage caused by the storm may the trauma of living through it.
“Tornadoes are always traumatic. Tornadoes are something that come out of nowhere, like the one we had in Joplin, Missouri a few years ago. Nothing on radar to indicate a problem, then out of nowhere you had an EF-5. Killed a bunch of people and did millions of dollars in damage.
“Trauma doesn’t go away real fast and that’s another reason you shouldn’t sign a contract too early.”
Insurance agents contacted for this story were reluctant to give any specific numbers as to claims and total damage amounts and referred requests for comment to their regional offices.