Copperas Cove: Team assesses tornado damage

(Photo by Chelsea Edwards)

COPPERAS COVE, Texas (KWTX) A little more than a week has passed since an EF-2 tornado tore down Big Divide Road in Copperas Cove, and there's evidence on every street.

"You look at the outside of the house, and you see blue tarps on the roof and you think ‘well, they only had some roof damage-we're good,’” said Michael Olsen, president of the Building Officials Association of Texas or BOAT.

But he says the outside appearances of the damaged homes can be deceiving.

He has volunteered to meet other members of the organization’s disaster response team where the tornado hit in June.

The BOAT Disaster Response Team has 300 members across the state who are called into action in a crisis.

"We’ve been out to Hurricane Harvey… West. We've been to Amarillo. We've been to all the tornadoes out towards Canyon," he says.

Monday’s team members come from Waco, Kempner and Harker Heights.

They take pictures, fill out surveys and get feedback from homeowners who allow them a closer look inside their homes.
"If they have shingles missing- it's 5 percent,” says Olsen, explaining the ratings system members use.

“But if you look at the structure behind us right now, that's going to be a hundred percent," he adds, gesturing to one of the homes hit the hardest.

“There's damage on both sides of the roof. There's a lot of structural damage and we've classified this one as an unsafe building.”
The team's info can help eligible cities apply for federal aid, but there are no guarantees and the approval process can take months.

Also, the assessments aren't meant to replace those done by insurance, but residents can request them from the city, and they can help homeowners considering estimates by repair companies.

"We just try to give the city the most detailed evaluation that we can give them to better help their citizens," adds Olsen.

Cities may opt to pay them, but the team of building inspectors and officials actually volunteer their time and expertise with building codes.

They ultimately hope the data they turn over to Cove leaders can help residents get to a full recovery faster.

The 500-yard-wide tornado with peak winds of about 115 miles per hour touched down at 5:24 p.m. near the intersection of Grimes Crossing Road and Big Divide Road three miles west-northwest of Copperas Cove and traveled almost 1.6 miles before dissipating at 5:28 p.m. two miles west of Copperas Cove, a National Weather Service report says.

The tornado moved to the south-southeast, "producing significant shingle, tree and ancillary structural damage to numerous residences in the neighborhoods straddling Big Divide Road," the report says.

The tornado stripped portions of the roofs off of several homes and uprooted several large trees, the report says.

Most of the damage along the tornado's path was consistent with EF-0 or EF-1 intensity winds and the tornado contracted to about 100 yards in width before it moved up a wooded hillside and dissipated near the intersection of Veterans Avenue and Stewart Street, the report said.