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In the Midst of Chaos: Helping Where Help is Needed After Canton Tornado

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On Saturday, April 29, 2017, I was chasing a supercell through Van Zandt County in Eastern Texas with my wife, Savannah Weingart and friend, Matt Phelps. We saw the storm in its initial stages south of the town of Malakov. The environment was so unstable it immediately began rotating and was quickly tornado warned.

We followed the wall cloud through town as tornado sirens blared. We headed east then north to reposition as the storm was moving quickly. When we regained visual, the storm had three large funnels, one to the ground. The first tornado lifted but was immediately replaced by another. We followed the tornado north as it tore through the thick forest in the area, lofting full grown trees high into the sky.

The tornado grew into a “wedge”, a term storm chasers use to describe a tornado that is as wide as it is tall.
Canton, Tx tornado
Photo: Facebook/Savannah Weingart

The tornado at this point was estimated to be approximately one mile wide. We followed Highway 19 towards Canton as the twister set its site on the town. It became heavily wrapped in rain as it crossed the road in front of us. The smell of fresh cut pine was overwhelming. This was caused by all the trees it had snapped. Debris was strewn across the road. Power lines were down everywhere. That’s when we realized there were homes along this stretch of road. They were heavily damaged.

Our chase was over. It was time to help.
Canton, Tx tornado damage
Photo: Facebook/Savannah Weingart

The first house we saw was the farm of Canton resident, Sally Knox. We ran across the road as she climbed from the rubble. Her animals were shaken up and bloodied, but she was unharmed, just in complete shock. Sally’s ranch is home to many different animals including camel, zebra, deer, emu, monkeys, parrots, horse and more. We asked if she needed help and she said “yes,” so I jumped the fence and began helping her search for missing animals.

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