Families Rebuild, Relocate in the Year After the October 20 Tornadoes

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Tuesday will mark one year since 10 tornadoes ripped through North Texas. It was a Sunday night and the Cowboys were on TV as a cold front fueled a line of storms.

The National Weather Service identified 10 tornados ranging in strength from EF-0 to an EF-3. The strongest tornado that night stretched nearly 16 miles from Dallas to Richardson.

Courtney Brandes said she’ll never forget it.

In the pouring rain, she raced to find her parents after learning their home on Royal Lane was in the path of the storms.

Brandes remembers driving up to the damaged neighborhood and telling a police officer her parents live on Royal Lane.

“I just remember the police officer saying, ‘My thoughts are with you,’ as I got out of the car and started running,” said Brandes.

When she found her parents, Phil and Tina Devlin, they were okay. Their home, however, was a total loss.

“When you think about everything was lost, I could have lost both these people here,” said Brandes as she stood with her parents on Sunday. “The fact that I didn’t is truly the biggest blessing that I can remember from that day.”

After traveling along Royal Lane, the same tornado cut a path to Casey Topletz’s home in Dallas. Topletz, his wife and one-year-old son were inside as the tornado ripped off the roof.

“My biggest thing is my family was not hurt and my family was safe,” said Topletz.

In the year since, crews demolished what was left of their home and worked to rebuild a new house on the same property.

After living in a rental home, the family expects to move in by the end of the year.

“I was actually nervous because of COVID, I thought it would be halted but it really hasn’t been,” said Topletz.

This is the second time Topletz has been forced to start over after a natural disaster. In 2005, Topletz left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

“More thankfulness and appreciation and gratitude than complaints. I’m happy to be here that’s for sure,” said Topletz.

The tornado outbreak on October 20, 2019, caused an estimated $2 Billion in insured damages. Recovery is ongoing. In parts of Dallas hit by the tornado, some homes are already rebuilt while others are under construction or sit damaged. The path of the tornado is still apparent on the streets that used to be lined with tall trees.

There’s an empty lot where the Devlin family home once stood.

“We came to the conclusion it would just be too painful for us to rebuild on that lot,” said Phil Devlin.

The Delvin's have relocated to another home in Dallas since the tornado.

“We think about it on a daily basis,” said Phil Devlin.

“Certainly, I learned that day you can not hold too tight to things,” said Tina Devlin.

“It was a miracle for the city that nobody was severely injured, that nobody lost their life,” said Brandes. “I don’t think you can really explain that given the breadth of the damage. That was truly a miracle and it still feels that way to me for sure.”

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