Our Town

You never really think something bad is going to happen to you. Those things always happen to someone else; but when it hits you, your perspective is forever changed.

In an agonizing 15 minutes, 80% of our community was forever changed. An astounding 80% of our city was ravaged by hail as large as grapefruit, which shredded vinyl siding, tore holes through roofs, smashed windows, totaled cars, and forever changed the look and feel of our town.

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As people came out of their homes, there was sheer disbelief, fear, and even weeping. The enormity of just how many people in our town that were affected was unfathomable at that moment. Within days, the sleepy bedroom community feel was lost to a sea of blue tarps, papered roofs, boarded windows and trash piles. Three weeks later there are still cars with tarps parked along the road, waiting for the wrecker to pick them up.

There is no shortage of work to be done.

Photo credit: http://thescoopblog.dallasnews.com/files/2016/04/CfzTnv2VIAA3pl7.jpg
Trees and bushes are shredded and sparse and I wonder how any birds could have made it through chunks of ice falling from the sky at ridiculously high rates of impact.

Though the numbers visiting my yard are severely restricted from what they were pre-storm, I am happy about the mockingbird who was building a nest in the vine along the back fence just before the storm, and has a brood to feed this week. Somehow she made it through alive and her instincts to build on the south side of the fence were spot on.

I am also excited at the rabbit who has been building her hutch under the holly bushes for the past week. Fat and happy, she's a survivor too. In fact, we all survived. Amazingly, there were no deaths or severe injuries to report.

We are not without effect, however. Tensions run high every time there is a storm warning. When vehicles or voices can be heard, it's hard not to look out the window to see what truck has pulled up where, and who's getting what done.

It's also hard not to fret over May, usually the worst month in our annual spring storm season.

People are cycling through Kubler-Ross' five On Death and Dying stages, from denial, anger and bargaining, to depression and then acceptance. I recognize and acknowledge each distinct feeling, and love my general contractor for having the patience of a saint.

Three weeks later, with glass at a shortage, there are still boarded up windows and tarped roofs everywhere you drive. There is simply no place to escape what has happened.

Three weeks later, there is progress, but it crawls at a snail's pace, as roofers pound their way around the one- and two-story skyline. There is a hum of the nail gun somewhere each day, you simply cannot get away from it.

It is overwhelmingly sad, and every new street driven is an exercise in shock.

In our town we read stories about our eye doctor and his wife hugging for dear life in the back seat of their car, as windows smashed. We read about dear friends who also hid in their cars, screaming their heads off as the windows shattered overhead. We read about city employees and council members racing to various damaged city buildings to assist with cleanup, despite their own homes needing attention. We even read about how hard our mayor has been working to reach out to the community, trying to get assistance through a disaster declaration which has not been approved by the governor yet.

In historic downtown Wylie, many stores are closed including our own Brown House event center, the place where every senior class has held its annual tea party in April since as long as I can remember. Other iconic businesses like the quaint Shoemaker and Hardt coffee house that I often meet people at, still closed to this day. Our winery, 96 West, finally opened on April 30th.

Even the local Albertson's grocery store sign is smashed.

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It's incredibly bizarre driving around town. No matter how many times I've had to drive to Home Depot for duct tape or to order the replacement storm door, I'm taken aback by the power of nature. I cannot think of one person I know in Wylie who has not had their life as they knew it, changed by this storm.

Yet since the storm, our town, with the sweet little country feel, makes lemonade out of lemons on a daily basis. Wylie's First Baptist Church has teams of volunteers to help with cleanup, and they are also taking donations to assist those in need.

Additionally, the neighbors chat on the neighborhood Nextdoor.com website; neighbor helping neighbor advising their way through discussions on insurance, contractors, and decisions.

Who knew when this storm happened that we would be offering up good siding to a neighbor who only needs 5 planks replaced? Who knew someone's call to put up their fence panel would be heeded by good neighbors on the way home from work? Who knew that neighbors who had their own damage would still find time to ask for help for other neighbors, such as the call that went out today where someone needs help replacing their roof because their insurance is refusing to cover it, and they only received enough funds to cover their windows, having very little money of their own.

There's been talk of upgrading windows, new roofs and upgraded shingles. People are cleaning up. Out with the old and in with the new. Over the past three weeks, it's been a trash picker's delight around our town.

There is a new sense of pride as front yards are cleaned up, damaged bushes are tidied and trim is painted. I'm even a little envious of our neighbor who replaced his hail damaged metal shed with a beautiful wood one, which is precisely what I am trying to talk the hubster into doing. Hey, a little pocket money never hurt anyone's home values.

Through it all, the community is closer than ever, and we are sharing ideas and goals for upgrades to make our community a better place to live. When the nightmare is finally over months from now, and the scars begin to fade, our town will have proven that stoic, gracious and giving community spirit we share will have made Wylie one of the most desirable places to live.

Headline photo credit: Dallas Morning News