Houston County starts picking up the pieces after tornado

PENNINGTON, TX (KTRE) - Residents in Pennington have started the daunting task of cleaning up after an EF 3 tornado left a trail of destruction and debris on Christmas morning.

A pair of Christmas twisters wrecked havoc on Pennington, Texas around 9:30 Christmas morning leaving miles of snapped trees and debris.

Chad Welch grew up in nearby Crockett and stopped by the hardest hit area to take in the scene.

Welch said, "Well it's a mess. I mean, it's just bad. Thankfully the good Lord, it was Christmas morning and nobody was here or it would have been really bad."

Welch also said it was a good thing it was Christmas and the store was closed because on a typical day anywhere from 3 to 6 people would have been at the store and from the looks of it, they wouldn't have survived.

Bob Shotwell owns what used to be a feed store, restaurant and vacant house all of which was leveled by the tornado.

Shotwell said, at first "it headed my way to my house and my family was all there then it turned and came this way".

Shotwell says he watched from his house as the tornado ripped through and destroyed his store.

"It happened so fast it was like one minute it was here and the next minute it was gone," Shotwell said. He said he was glad it tore up his store instead of his house.

Bob said, "I had my office here. All of my business affairs were here. Titles and things to everything I own was here so it's scattered across this field so we're just trying to gather up what we can salvage."

The feed store was a landmark in Pennington and Shotwell is not sure if he is going to rebuild.

He said, "It's heartbreaking but it aint nothing because I've still got my family that's the main thing."

According to the National Weather Service, the tornado was on the ground for just 10 minutes and left 7 miles of destruction near County Road 4565.

Bill Luedke raises pine trees and has property near where the twister hit and says he lost about an 8th of his trees.

Luedke said, "We have a tremendous amount of damage in the trees but most of them that are down were drought stricken anyway."

Hundreds and hundreds of snapped, twisted and broken trees litter the fields off CR 4565.
Luedke said, "It's almost amazing just to look at the country side and up close to see what an EF3 will do."

The NWS report confirms that not 1 but 2 tornados touched down in Houston County Christmas morning.

The national weather service confirms an EF3 measuring 300 yards in width was on the ground for about 10 minutes (from 9:25 - 9:35 AM) with estimated top winds at 150 miles per hour.

The second EF 0 briefly touched land for less than a minute. The NWS says the second twister causes little additional damage.