Science

Texas Tornadoes Kill 6 And Injure Hundreds, Here's What Happens Next

By Michael Mayday , May 16, 2013 01:43 PM EDT

A cluster of tornadoes hit northwestern Texas Wednesday night, killing at least six and leaving hundreds of others either injured, homeless or both. Tornadoes aren't rare, especially in Tornado Alley, but they're still difficult to prepare for. More difficult, and wrenching, however, is what happens after a tornado –– the clean up.

The mile-wide twister which struck Celburne, Texas, and the cluster which leveled Ganbury, did a lot of damage, and it'll take a massive effort to get things back to normal. Here's what will happen next to those affected:

Search and Rescue

Search and rescue operations begin immediately after any natural disaster strikes. Already, bulldozers are being used to clear debris and make way for emergency vehicles. Search and rescue teams will use whatever's at their disposal to find trapped victims, like helicopters and trained dogs. When victims are found, they're prioritized by their condition and evacuated to nearby shelters or hospitals.

Victims Given Shelter

Shelters open up almost as quickly as search and rescue operations begin. Nearby churches, high-school gyms and even major sports arenas can be used to temporarily house those who've had their property destroyed. After staying at an immediate shelter, victims who've had their homes heavily damaged or destroyed are then moved to transitional shelter - typically a hotel or motel - until better housing options are found or their homes are rebuilt.

Charities Pitch In

Charity comes in a lot of forms –– food, shelter and comfort  –– though much of it is money. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pricks out there who want to make money off of other people's good will, and they come in the form of charities. If you do decide to donate, do so cautiously. Or avoid having to verify a charity altogether and go to a larger organization like the Red Cross.

The good organizations out there usually help with clean up and rebuilding efforts. The tornado which struck Joplin, Missouri, killing 161 and displacing thousands, caused organizations ranging from NASCAR Unites to Habitat for Humanity to help with rebuilding efforts. Habitat for Humanity –– which built one of the destroyed subdivisions in Ganbury –– built 35 homes alone.

The Long Clean Up and Rebuilding

Finally, there's cleaning up and rebuilding - the most expensive and time-consuming process of all.

For example, the New York Times reports the Joplin, Mo. tornado, which killed 161 people in 2011, created 2.5 million cubic yards of debris. All of that had to go somewhere. Usually, grinders are deployed to chew up waste for easier disposal in landfills. But not all debris can go to the dump. Hazardous materials, like propane tanks, refrigerators, freezers, and batteries have to be diverted from landfills due to Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Compounding the problem of clean up efforts are property rights. Government workers cannot go onto private land without permission. - a difficult task when a good deal of owners are displaced and when property lines have vanished under mounds of debris. Typically, property owners are responsible for removing waste, though this usually refers to moving trash to the curbside for collection.

However time-consuming cleaning up may be, rebuilding takes even longer. Those affected by the Joplin tornado are still feeling its effects. It can take years for residents to rebuild their homes, and even longer to get over their loss.

The tornadoes that struck Texas last night may not be on the scale of Joplin, but the effect of the destruction is no different.

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