A Year Later: Homeowners and Businesses Reflect on 2019 Tornado

People continue to rebuild a year later

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It's been exactly one year since tornadoes ripped through North Texas, damaging 900 homes and businesses.

Most of the blue tarps and piles of debris are gone, but there are still signs that 12 months later, the community continues to rebuild.

"We’re almost done, it’s been a solid one year of working on it, our deck in the back was destroyed," said Charlotte Barto whose home in Brookshire Park was damaged.

Her roof was damaged, 17 large trees were lost and their deck was damaged, but Barto considers herself lucky compared to her neighbors.

“There are nine houses on our circle after the tornado, only three were left inhabitable and we have a pond in the back and of the five houses on the pond, we’re the only one standing," Barto said.

Her two teen sons were home the night the EF-3 tornado traveled for 15 miles through Dallas to Richardson.

“One of my boys was trapped in the garage because the electricity was out. He shut the garage door and a tree fell, right after he drove in, he was trapped in there and I had another one (son) in the bathroom hiding," Barto said.

Fortunately, no one was severely hurt the night of the tornadoes, but the storms left behind about $2 billion in damages.

"My next-door neighbor, it was a close call, she was running through her house as windows were blowing in on her and she got to a back closet, but half of her house fell," Barto said.

Nearby businesses at the Preston Royal shopping center also were impacted.

“We were without power and water for weeks we were down, it took us two weeks to reopen," said Jon Alexis, the owner of TJ's Seafood Market & Grill. "We were far luckier than people whose businesses still haven’t recovered and peoples whose homes haven’t been totally fixed.”

Across the street at a different strip center, construction crews continued to repair several business that remained closed.

"We closed for a little over a week. We had no power, a little bit of damage it was very scary but the whole strip center was a mess. It’s been a long year, but we are definitely doing well," said Jean Matthews, the owner of Cousin Earl in Preston Royal.

She said the clothing had some minor damage from broken glass, but they remained closed for a few months as crews repaired the HVAC system and the roof.

And just several months after the tornado, everyone faced yet another challenge, COVID-19.

“We had restaurants that were impacted by both COVID and the tornado and the resilience has been incredible," Alexis said. “It’s been very strange that the tornado kind of prepared us to be a restaurant in the pandemic, it’s kind of funny the way life works.”

It’s been exactly one year since tornadoes ripped through North Texas, damaging 900 homes and businesses.

On Tuesday night, members of a church, which was destroyed by the storm - held a prayer vigil in the parking lot.

“It feels surreal that it has been a year, it feels that it was last week,” said Ricardo Brambila, senior pastor at First Mexican Baptist Church. “There are times as a person of faith that you have to be at the place where everything happened or everything started."

Like many buildings in the tornadoes path, the process of bouncing back has been complicated and long. To call the damage that remains a scar is to perhaps over simplify its significance to residents and business owners.

“I can’t believe we just moved back in two weeks ago, it’s been kind of a crazy year, certainly,” said Candace Williams, owner of ‘The Toy Maven.’

NBC 5's Jack Highberger contributed to this report.

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