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In Texas, Cooke County was especially hard hit by severe weather

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Storms across the central part of our country killed at least 24 people over the holiday weekend. Texas Governor Greg Abbott described the devastation in his state.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GREG ABBOTT: It's been a harrowing week, with lives lost, property reduced to rubble. The hopes and dreams of Texas families and small businesses have literally been crushed by storm after storm.

INSKEEP: Some of the people affected live in Cooke County, Texas, which is on the Oklahoma border, and we have reached Cooke County Sheriff Ray Sappington. Sheriff, good morning.

RAY SAPPINGTON: Hey. Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: I'm looking at The Texas Tribune. They've got an overhead photo of what just looks like utter devastation, houses exploded into little pieces. You were down in that. What was it like?

SAPPINGTON: Yeah. That's a pretty good description. It was a pretty wide path through a couple of housing additions that totally leveled some that maybe the foundation blocks are all slipped. And, you know, we had 487 homes impacted, with 224 with major damage or totally destroyed, so...

INSKEEP: I'm just thinking, when I grew up in Indiana, Sheriff, tornadoes were an issue, and everybody knew what to do. People knew how to go to the safe part of the house or whatever, and they'd listen for the alert. Did people have time to take shelter?

SAPPINGTON: People did have time to take shelter. The problem is most of those homes down in there were trailer homes, modular-type homes, you know, where there just isn't a safe place to go in those homes - and very few with storm shelters. So if the folks didn't leave their residence, then they were going to be in harm's way.

INSKEEP: What did you and your people do immediately after the storm to respond?

SAPPINGTON: You know, we - the cavalry came, but it took some time to get back in there, as we had numerous power poles and lines across the road. Trees were across the road. And so it took some time to get in there with chainsaws to just clear a path. The location is remote and with just a couple of ways in, and so it did take a little bit of time to get in there. And...

INSKEEP: Listening to you, I - if I'm not mistaken, seven people were killed in Cooke County alone. Listening to you, I'm actually a little surprised and grateful the number is not higher.

SAPPINGTON: You're absolutely right, and so was I. When you look at the devastation in that area, I am surprised that only seven people lost their lives.

INSKEEP: What was it like then when more storms blew through North Texas yesterday? Were you affected even as you were trying to clean up?

SAPPINGTON: Yes, just with some heavy rain for a period of time. But we didn't have any severe weather here in this area yesterday.

INSKEEP: That's good.

SAPPINGTON: We had a little bit of rain again last night, but there, again, it was light rain and no storms.

INSKEEP: So what do you do in the days ahead to help the people who still need help and to get back to whatever normal is?

SAPPINGTON: You know, we have - the local church has been amazing. They've set up shelters and collected donations. Currently, the American Red Cross has a shelter set up at the high school gymnasium there in Valley View for people that are needing to seek shelter and spend the night. Food and water and supplies are being provided. And as - you know, as the cleanup process starts, and I'm sure as you know from covering these types of events, it's going to be some time before things even resemble normalcy.

INSKEEP: That is true. Well, Sheriff, thank you very much for the update. I really appreciate it.

SAPPINGTON: Yes, sir. Thank you.

INSKEEP: Ray Sappington is the sheriff of Cooke County, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.

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